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A// rights reserved 





C.'^W: HOBLEY, C.M.G., A.M.Inst.C.E. 


Cambridge : 

at the University Press 




CambrtDgr : 



IN the face of the monumental monographs of Haddon, 
Rivers and others, it is with great reluctance that the 
observations contained in this work are being published, and 
I am only persuaded to do so by the assurance of various 
scientific advisers who are of opinion that any first-hand 
observations of this kind should be made accessible to those 
who are working at these subjects. 

Part I is an attempt at a systematic survey of the A-Kamba 
tribe of British East Africa. Although one of the first up- 
country tribes to be administered, I believe that very little 
has up to now been known about their customs and beliefs. 
Dr Krapf travelled among them over 40 years ago and their 
country has been traversed by many travellers, who hurriedly 
passed through, anxious to push on to the great lakes, to 
Kenya or some other place which possessed a fascination for 
the explorer. A certain amount of information about them is 
buried away in blue books and official reports, but, as far as 
I know, no effort has been made to carry out a systematic 
study of the tribe. Being for the last year and a half re- 
sponsible for their administration I thought it desirable that 
some such attempt should be made, and this work is the result 
of several short journeys in their country; my only regret is that 
I have not been able to personally witness many of their 
important ceremonies, but the descriptions have been obtained 
at first-hand from some of the more important chiefs and 
checked as far as possible. Unless one resides for a long time 
in the particular locality, and is at hand when each ceremony 
takes place, it is very difficult to be actually present when they 
occur, especially when the more interesting ceremonies are not 


usually held in the vicinity of Government stations. It is only 
after working at the internal affairs of a tribe for some time 
that one begins to realize how much more must remain to be 

The points of greatest interest about the A-Kamba, and to 
which the attention of the anthropologist is especially called, 
are : — Their circumcision ceremonies, the account of which was 
only obtained with some difficulty, and in connection with this, 
the carving of pictographic riddles on the Musai stick is especi- 
ally curious. Some six months after these facts were collected 
I discovered some pictographic sticks in Sir H. H. Johnston's 
George Grenfell and the Congo, p. 807. It does not, however, 
mention if they are used in connection with any rites of a 
similar character. 

In the description of the Kamba ordeals mention is made 
of the ordeal by the insertion of a bead under the eyelid and, 
on p. 672 of Grenfell mid the Congo, I now see that the same 
ordeal is used by Bateke and Eshi Kongo of Western Congo- 
land ; thus affording one more instance of the extraordinary 
way in which the human mind works in circles, and does exactly 
the same thing in a dozen places on the earth, all equally remote 
from each other. 

Turning to the folk lore chapter we find a Kamba version of 
the hare and the tortoise, but in this case the eagle replaces the 

The account of the Aiimu beliefs may prove of some interest 
to psychologists. 

Part II. 

This portion of the work will probably appear very frag- 
mentary and disjointed until I explain that it is really the 
amplification of jottings made upon the occasion of journeys 
among the various tribes touched upon. In some cases, how- 
ever, the district could not be visited but the information was 
obtained first-hand from members of the tribe referred to. An 
official life does not always afford the best opportunities for 
research of this nature, and one should be able to follow 
wherever clues might lead and have no ties but those of re- 


search ; in practice, however, it will be readily seen that this is 
impossible, and the only hope is to so multiply the workers in the 
field that every avenue of investigation will be examined, and 
every district in the country contain a resident investigator. 

Investigation is, however, not likely to be very productive of 
result unless it is trained, and it is a curious fact that although 
many men will be found in every newly settled country, who 
are keen on observing facts in connection with the natural 
history of mammals, birds, or insects, it is very rare to find 
anyone who is interested in the study of the highest order in 
the animate world, viz. : — man. This I believe is due to omissions 
in our scheme of education in which the study of man has up to 
now held no recognized place. Ordinary natural history has 
been written up in popular form by scores of authors, hardly a 
month passes without some handbook to the study of British 
birds, butterflies, or wild flowers being published, and the book- 
stalls are flooded with guides to Nature Study. Training in the 
study of man is, however, not nearly so accessible, unless the 
student is able to sit at the feet of the great teachers in one 
of the old universities : without such opportunity competent 
instruction in scientific method as applied to ethnological re- 
search is almost impossible to obtain. ^ 

Public opinion is however, I think, awakening, and there 
appears to be a chance of that struggling body "The Royal 
Anthropological Institute" receiving some official recognition, 
and it is hoped that the enormous importance of this line of 
research will presently be generally recognised. 

The native races in British colonies and protectorates are 
one of our greatest assets, both for the production of products 
necessary for the European world and for labour supply. This 
is the utilitarian point of view and apart from this there is the 
question of our duty to the races subject to our rule. Their 
future is in our hands, and let us see to it that the verdict of 
posterity be that we have guided their destiny wisely. In 
Africa, for instance, owing to the introduction of many new 
factors, white colonization, improved communications, missionary 
efforts, etc., the situation yearly becomes more complex, and 
greater control and development on sound lines will not be 


arrived at by armed force and expeditions, which are merely- 
destructive in effect, but by complete knowledge and more 
scientific treatment. 

The practical need at the present day is for some means by 
which travellers, colonial officials, missionaries and others, can 
easily receive competent instruction in the methods of ethno- 
logical research, in the same way as the Royal Geographical 
Society trains the would-be explorer in surveying, etc. The 
interest once awakened, and the aims made clear, there is little 
doubt that the results would be proportionately great and 

To return after this digression to Part II of this work, the 
attention of the student is called to the section dealing with 
the social organization of the Masai tribe, which it is hoped 
will throw a certain amount of new light upon those interesting 

An attempt has also been made to rebuild to some extent 
the past history of the East Africa highlands by the help of 
information obtained from many native sources. 

The discovery of the Mogogodo tribe of aboriginals with 
their curious and rather unique language may prove to be a 
clue of considerable value. An examination of the photograph 
of their chief Matungi, will at once demonstrate that we have 
here a very different human type to that of the surrounding 
tribes, the profile reminding one of classical representations of 
ancient Egyptian types. 

I wish to record my thanks to Prof Ridgeway and other 
scientific friends, who have given me much valuable advice, 
and to Mr R. W. Humphry who has helped me in obtaining 
particulars about the A-Kamba, and would also mention the 
chief Nthiwa wa Tama who entered into the spirit of my 
investigations and gave me much information concerning his 


Sutton Coldfield, 
October 1909. 






Prefatory Note ... 





Distribution of the A-Kamba . 



Physical characteristics . ^ . 



Food, Meals, etc. . .^ . 



Personal ornamentation, etc. 



Agriculture and Crops 


' VI. 

Cattle brands, etc. 



Industries and Arts . 



Dress, personal ornaments, etc. 



Weapons, warfare, etc. 



Social and other grades and Kinshi 

p . . 49 


Salutations, measurement of time 

i, natural 

phenomena, dances, riddles, etc. 



Miscellaneous .... 



Birth customs . '^. 



Marriage customs 



Death and burial customs . ^ . 



Circumcision .... 



Law, land tenure, etc. . 

. . 78 


Religion and beliefs . . 

. . 85 


Medicine men, magic, etc. ^ . 



Prohibitions, omens, etc. . 



Folk lore 




^^^^ PART II. 


I. Social organization of the Masai with table of 

"gilat" 119 

II. Names of children, shield patterns, cattle brands 126 

III. Early colonization of British East African 

highlands 130 

IV. A-Kikuyu history and notes on land tenure, 

magic, etc 134 

V. Notes on the Mogogodo tribe, with vocabulary . 146 

VI. Notes on the Mweru tribe . . . . 156 

Notes on the Sambur, Laikipiak, Elgeyo, Uasin- 

gishu tribes and their sub-divisions . . 159 

Appendix 165 

Index .171 

Map End of volume 



PLATE to face page 

I. (i) A-Kamba skulls. lo 
(2) „ „ lO 

II. (3) Mu-Kamba playing Mbebe or fiddle. 18 
(4) Women of Emberre shewing cicatrization. 18 

III. (5) Interior of A-Kamba village — Ulu. 30 
(6) A-Kamba huts. 30 

IV. (7) A-Kamba stools. 34 

(8) „ „ 34 

(9) Kamba ornaments, etc., girl's aprons, adzes. 34 

V. (10) Mu-Kamba woman carrying firewood. 40 
(11) A-Kamba women carrying children. 40 

VI. (12) Girl from Mumoni. 44 
(13) Mumoni women and girls. 44 

VII. (14) Kamba chief — Nthiwa wa Tama. 52 
(15) Nthiwa wa Tama. 52 

VIII. (16) Kamba chief— Mukeku of Mwala, 60 
(17) Mukeku of Mwala. 60 

IX. (18) Kamba dandies — Ulu district. 66 

(19) „ dandy „ „ 66 

X. (20) A-Kamba young men, Anake — Ulu district. 76 

(21) A-Kamba young women — Ulu district. 76 

XI. (22) Framework of a Kamba hut in course of construction. 84 
(23) Dry sandy watercourse Wathomi — Ulu — typical of 

U- Kamba. 84 

XII. (24) Kamba family group at door of hut. 92 
(25) Nzawi peak — southern extremity of Ulu district ; it is a 

granite fault scarp. 92 
XIII. (26) Typical Nthele or young married Mu-Kamba — Ulu 

district. 106 











































XXVII. (53) 


Cattle brands, MASAI : 

Cattle brand, Lugumai, sub-gilat Parseroi. 
Cattle brand, Lugumai, sub-gilat Kirikoris. 
Cattle brand, L'Aiser, sub-gilat Parkinetti. 
Cattle brand, Taarosero gilat. 

Cattle brands, UASINGISHU tribe : 
Cattle brand, Nyaya gilat. 
Cattle brand, Siria gilat. 
Cattle brand, Mogishu gilat. 
Cattle brand, Masarunye gilat. 

Types of MASAI shields : 

Masai : Sirata Sambu. 

„ „ 01-ebor. 

„ „ Ol-orasha. 

„ „ 01-enapeta legal. 

„ „ El-langarbwali. 

„ „ El-engameta. 

„ „ Ol-olorika or ol-engerere. 

Kikuyu dancing shields : 

Front view. 
Back view. 
A-Kikuyu chief — Muturi wa Theka. 

» » » 5> J) 

A-Kikuyu chief — Kiondo wa Kitei. 

A-Kikuyu chief — Karuri. 

A-Kikuyu women pounding sugar-cane to make beer. 

A-Kikuyu women in village. 

A-Kikuyu bee-hive marked with badge of the Anjiru 

Prehistoric stone bowl or mortar discovered near 

Naivasha, also perforated stone dug up at Mwatate, 

Taita Mountains. 
Mogogodo tribe — chief Matungi. 

tojace page 









IN his own preface Mr Hobley has set forth so admirably, 
albeit most modestly, the scope of his work, that there seems 
little need for any further preliminary remarks. However I 
cannot refuse the request of a valued friend to write a few lines 
on one or two general questions. Mr Hobley 's long experience 
amongst the various tribes of British East Africa gives him the 
right to speak with an authority to which few others can lay 
claim. His earlier collections when laid before the Council of 
the Royal Anthropological Institute a good many years ago 
were regarded as of such importance that the Institute deter- 
mined to devote to them a separate publication, and his very 
valuable series of facts were thus embodied in his now well- 
known monograph — Eastern Uganda: an Ethnological Survey^ 
There can be no better warrant than this for believing that the 
fruits of his close observation and of his intimate and sympathetic 
knowledge of the races of East Africa must always have a per- 
manent value. His own frank statement in his preface respecting 
the difficulties under which one who, like himself, occupies a 
prominent administrative post, labours in carrying out systematic 
researches, at once inspires the reader with the fullest confidence 
that whatever Mr Hobley commits to writing is a well-ascertained 

His present contribution to our knowledge of the peoples 
of East Africa is a striking example of what can be done even 
in the pressure of official work by one who has wisely seen for 
himself the importance of a minute and careful study of the 


organisation and the institutions, as well as of the physical charac- 
teristics of our native races, not only from the standpoint of 
science, but also, what is after all still more important, for the 
purposes of enlightened and successful government, and thereby 
for the permanent benefit and credit of the Empire. 

Mr Hobley has given us an excellent presentation of all that 
appertains to the life, and indeed also the death, of the A-Kamba. 
It is needless to reiterate the importance of such collections of 
well-attested facts, made not by a traveller during a hasty 
journey or, at the most a short stay, but by one who has long 
been familiar with the natives and their modes of life and 
thought. It is only when such systematic inquiries and observa- 
tions shall have been made over the whole range of primitive 
races, not yet too corrupted by civilisation, that we shall be in a 
position to apply properly the inductive method to the study of 
Man and draw from the data sound and irrefragible conclusions. 
This is not the place to dilate upon the many valuable details 
contained in his work, but I may call attention to the most 
interesting example of the use of pictographs given on p. 71, 
which seems to suggest that these people have reached the first 
stage in that picture-writing from which, as we now know, 
all our civilised scripts have come, as in Egypt and Greece. 
I would, however, venture to say a few words upon a very 
important question raised in Mr Hobley's preface — the impera- 
tive need of a training in Ethnology and Primitive Religion for 
those whose life task is to be the direction and control of 
native races in our colonies and dependencies. Public opinion 
is certainly beginning to awaken not only to a sense of our moral 
duty towards those whom we have taken under our dominion, 
but also to the utilitarian aspect of the question. But public 
opinion works slowly, and before our rulers can be induced to 
take practical steps, strenuous and continuous efforts will still 
have to be made. 

In 1908 the Council of the Royal Anthropological Institute 
formulated a scheme for the establishment of an Imperial Bureau 
of Anthropology within the Institute and drew up a memorial 
pointing out that almost all the mistakes made by our officials 



in dealing with natives were due to ignorance of their customs 
and institutions, and praying the Government to make a training 
in the elements of Anthropology compulsory on probationers 
for the Indian, Colonial, and Consular services. This memorial 
was signed by a large number of our leading Indian and 
Colonial administration and also by prominent ship-owners, 
manufacturers and traders. It was presented to the Prime 
Minister by an influential deputation of members of Parliament 
and others. The Institute also asked for the modest grant of 
;^500 per annum for the working expenses, in return for which 
the State would have at its command a well-equipped Bureau of 
Anthropology, where civil servants, merchants, and missionaries 
could obtain reliable information about the various races within, 
and even without, the Empire. But the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer remained obdurate. Nevertheless, the words used 
by Mr Asquith in his reply are of permanent value : " He 
was entirely with the deputation in their proposition that 
Anthropology had become and was becoming more and more 
every year not only an important but an indispensable branch 
of knowledge, not merely for scholars, but for persons who in 
an empire like ours were going to undertake — whether in the 
Consular service, in India, or in the Crown Colonies — the work 
of administration. A young man at a University was now 
compelled to equip himself with a mass of knowledge from this 
science which was once unknown. Much more was this the case 
when they came to deal with an enormous variety of tribes, 
customs, and usages of a more or less imperfectly developed 
civilisation. On that point there was no dispute." 

But though this first attempt was for the moment a failure, 
as far as any subvention was concerned, the impression made 
on great officials seems to have been not inconsiderable. Sir 
Reginald Wingate had already taken the lead by requesting 
the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge to give systematic 
instruction in Ethnology and Primitive Religion to the proba- 
tioners for the Soudan Civil Service, and there are now not 
wanting signs that the Colonial Office is taking steps in the 
same direction ; it is even possible that eventually the India 



Office may also awake to a sense of this most important duty to 
the millions over which it exercises control. We may therefore 
hope that before long the aspirations of Mr Hobley and others 
like him who have had long administrative experience in the 
field and who can thus speak with an undeniable authority, may 
be realised, and that the probationers for our Indian, Colonial 
and Consular services will receive a training in the elements of 
Anthropology sufficient to prevent them from making those 
mistakes which keep alive that friction that lies at the root of 
the "native question." 


September 19 lo. 




The habitat of the A-Kamba tribe is a triangular stretch of 
country in the East Africa Protectorate about 90 miles from 
E. to w. by 150 miles from N. to s. and this area is roughly 
bounded on the W. by the Uganda Railway from Mtito Andei 
to Kiu Stations ; from Kiu the boundary runs N. as far as the 
east slopes of Donyo Sapuk or " Chianzabi " as the A-Kamba 
call it, on the north the area may be said to be bounded by the 
Tana River and from the junction of the Thika and Tana as far 
E. as the northern extremity of the Mumoni range, from that 
point their boundary runs E. to the 38°. 30' meridian of longitude 
and as far south along that meridian as latitude 2°. 30' S. There 
are a few villages on the w. side of the Railway near Kibwezi in 
the district called Kikumbuliu which extends to the eastern 
slopes of the Chyulu or Kyulu and Ongolea ranges, but these are 
very few and scattered. Then a few isolated colonies of the 
tribe are found on Kilimanjaro and there is a definite patch of 
Kamba settlement some miles N. and N.w. of Rabai and bordering 
on Giriama country. 

There is a small settlement of hunters allied to the A-Kamba 
in the Ongolea Hills, they are called A-Noka and owing to their 
timidity and their living in a little known portion of the country 
have no communication with traders or Europeans. Possibly 
this section is not of Kamba origin but they speak a dialect of 

H. I 


There is also another small section living in dense bush at 
Kiangini near where the Mkindu River joins the Athi, it is said 
that the rhino and buffalo are very troublesome there and so 
many of these people sleep at night in shelters built in trees. 

The tribe can be conveniently divided into three sections 
each of which presents some differences : 

(i) The A-Kamba of Ulu or Ibeti (Ulu means high- 

(2) The A-Kamba of Kibwezi or Kikumbuliu. Both of 

these are administered from Machakos Station. 

(3) The A-Kamba of Kitui. 

(4) The A-Kamba of Mumoni. 
The Kitui and Mumoni people were formerly administered 

from Kitui Station, but it is hoped that Mumoni will presently 
have an administrative centre of its own. 

The Kibwezi and Kitui people are closely allied. 

The A-Kamba of Ulu have a legend that they originally 
came from a country to the south of Kilimanjaro, but the 
Mumoni people say they believe they came from near Giriama 
country, that the pioneers swam across the Athi supported 
on empty beehives, and that they brought some fire with them 
sealed up in a bee-hive to prevent the water of the river from 
extinguishing it. 

The A-Kamba are probably the purest Bantu race in British 
East Africa. 

It was at one time considered that the Tharaka tribe was 
closely allied to the A-Kamba, but further enquiry does not seem 
to bear out this idea ; this tribe appears to have come up the 
R. Tana from Pokomo land and some of the elders say they are 
an off-shoot of a tribe N. and N.W. of Malindi. It is rather 
curious to note that one of the common devices on the Tharaka 
shields is a cross and if, as they say, they came from the region 
near Malindi it is quite possible that they copied this from the 
same device displayed on the flags of the early Portuguese 

The population of Ulu and Kibwezi districts is estimated at 
115,000, Kitui 95,000, Mumoni 25,000; which gives an approxi- 
mate total of 235,000. 



This estimate is based on the hut tax returns. 

The physical configuration of the Kamba country is one that 
is characteristic of a well-marked zone of the eastern portion of 
the African continent between Latitude i° N. and about 8°S. 

One finds a series of granitic gneissose mountain ridges all 
running approximately north and south, having an altitude 
varying from 5000 to 7000 ft., and rising about 2000 to 3000 ft. 
above the normal level of the country ^ These ranges are the 
crests of ancient earth folds, and great thrust faults are nearly 
always traceable on either the east or west side of the ranges. 
Numerous springs are found on the hills and around their bases, 
and the colonies of the tribe are found settled on and near each 
mountain chain. Between the ranges great areas of flat country 
occur, sometimes parklike, but more often covered with thick 
thorn bush; these areas are traversed by great watercourses only 
containing running water in the height of the rains, but in which 
water can generally be obtained by digging holes in the clean 
white sand. The district of Ulu is the most fertile and best 
watered portion of their country, it is also the least subject to 
drought. The eastern portion of Kitui has a very fluctuating rain- 
fall, and at intervals of about seven or ten years severe famines 
have occurred : there was one about 1888, another 1898-9, and a 
trying scarcity in 1907-8. 

On the eastern borders of Kitui the mountains cease and 
there is a flat, bush covered, waterless desert, which runs con- 
tinuously without a break to the Tana valley ; it is a northern 
extension of the Taru desert. The fertility of its soil is extra- 
ordinary, but unless it can at some future time be irrigated by 
water from the Tana river it is quite useless to man. 

Name of tribes, etc. 
The people call themselves A-Kamba. 
One person is called a Mu-Kamba. 

The A-Kamba of Ulu call the Kitui A-Kamba — A-Thaishu. 
The A'Kamba of Ulu call the A-Kamba near Rabai, 
A-Tumwa and Ma-Pihilambua. 

The A-Kamba of Kilungu call other A-Kamba — Evaao. 
The Masai call the A-Kamba — Lungnu. 

1 See Plate XII. 












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175 Ph 








The A-Kamba call the Masai — A-Kabi, which is a corruption 
of Wa-Kuavi. 

The A-Kamba call the Wa-Taita— A-Ndi and A-Ntha. 

The A-Kamba call the A-Kikuyu— S. MwiKikuyu, P. 

The A-Kamba call the Wa-Langulu^ — Muyangulu. 

The A-Kamba call Gallas — S. Mutwa, P. Atwa. 

List of Mbai or clans of Mumoni district. 



Ba-Mutongoi (half of this clan not allowed to eat the meat 
of pig) 




Ba-Nzi (not allowed to eat the lungs of an animal) 





Ba-Ngoki (half of this clan not allowed to eat meat of bush- 





Ba-Muvai (this clan not allowed to eat meat of bush-buck) 





Ba-Lema (this clan not allowed to eat the liver of an animal) 



^ Mr Hollis tells me that the word Langulu is really Ki-Nyika and means 
^^the people who eat the pig^^ They are a hunting tribe living in the Taro desert 
and are allied to the Wa-Sania ; they are nominally tributary to the Gallas. 










Ba-Mutwoki (this clan not allowed to eat meat of bush-buck* 

List of Clans of the Kitui Section. 

Mbai or Mbaya of Kitui 

totem or Uthuku 








Asii 1 


Amuti ^ 









Mutia linga 







Kilui - 





kill a 

bird called 

Kitutu , 











Aombi 1 

^ The prefixes Mbaa, Ba and Mbaya are synonymous and mean "the people 
of," but it only refers to the clan, the expression Ba-Kamba would not be correct. 



The A-Kamba are as a whole a sturdy race and probably 
in bulk and height rank next in East Africa to the Nilotic 
Kavirondo^, they do not strike one as being as tall as Masai but 
the Masai are a thin and rather lanky people and of course they 
are not as tall as the Turkana who are also very spare folk. 

The average height of lo promiscuously chosen male adults 
worked out at about 5' t". 

Craniologically they would be classed as Mesoticephalic, the 
cephalic index of the above mentioned male adults being 78*6. 
See Plate I. 

The cephalic index derived from the average of the measure- 
ments of two skulls worked out at about 74*6. 

The results of the nasal measurement place them among the 
Platyrhine-group, the nasal index being 88*5. 

No opportunity was obtained of measuring any of the 
female sex. 

There are two general types of head noticeable, one with very 
wide massive jaw curved sides and tapering towards the forehead, 
a very coarse negroid type, and the other is, comparatively 
speaking, a more intellectual type with a wider forehead and 
narrower in the region of the jaws, the chiefs generally belong 
to the latter type. It appears to be impossible to discover any 
reason for this variation. The chiefs and elders are, generally 
speaking, taller than the rank and file of the population and the 
men one sees employed as porters and labourers. They are not 
a steatopygous race to any marked extent. Their sight is usually 

* Mr Hollis tells me that he considers some of the Giriama people to be physically 
the finest specimens of Homo sapiens in East Africa. 


very keen, especially for distant objects. The hearing of most is 
very acute and they have the faculty of talking to one another 
at distances of lOO yards and over without apparently greatly 
elevating their voices. Some of the Mumoni people are 
distinctly oblique-eyed, i.e. the horizontal axis of the eye 
slopes downwards to the nose. 

Their habitual carriage is easy and erect, but many of the 
young men wear a multitude of wire necklaces etc., which gives 
them a rather stiff-necked appearance. Loads of any kind are 
always carried on the back supported by a strap (Kik. Mukwa) 
across the forehead, this gives the women (who are daily carrying 
big loads of field produce, etc.) a rather bent appearance, their 
heads are apt to lean forward to some extent. 

They swing their arms when walking and the arm hangs 
down with the palms facing the body. 

When asleep they usually lie on one side with the knees 
doubled up towards the chin. 

Ten men were tested as to their control over their eyes, that 
is to say their ability to shut and open either at will, with the 
following result : 

4 men not able to open and shut either eye independent! 

of the other. 
4 men able to open and shut either at will. 
2 were only able to open and shut the left eye while the 
right was closed. 

The whole of the ten men were able to pick up a stone with 
the bare foot, the stone was grasped between the big toe and 
first toe, the two toes were however not opposable to any extent. 

They were also tested as to their power of opening each 
finger independently in succession from the shut hand, but this 
faculty appeared to be somewhat undeveloped, about three could 
open the first and second finger but the others failed in varying 

None of the subjects appeared to possess the faculty of 
moving their ears or the skin of the scalp. They all micturate 
in a standing position. 

They could all climb trees with exceptional agility, they did 
not grip the tree with the ankles and knees as a European 






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probably would, but placed the sole of the foot flat against the 
trunk and practically walked up the tree. They have great 
practice at tree climbing in their search for honey as the beehives 
are always slung from trees. If a tree is too large to climb in 
the way just described they drive pegs into the bark at intervals 
of about 2 feet. 

In pointing out an object, they usually hold the hand hori- 
zontal with the back uppermost and the first, or the first and third 
finger extended, if they desire to emphasize the distance of the 
object, they snap the thumb and first finger, the first finger then 
remaining extended in the direction of the object. A medicine 
man points at a person or an object with the fingers extended 
but with the first and second joint doubled, if he pointed at a 
person with his finger he would be liable to an accusation of 
designs on the life of the person pointed at. 

Deformities are rarely seen, with regard to diseases but little 
information is available as medical men have not resided much 
among these people. Although however a great portion of their 
country is malarious one hears very rarely of the people suffering 
from this disease ; no traces of filariasis were observed and except 
in the immediate vicinity of alien settlements venereal diseases 
appear to be absent. 

" Cliesu " Maitia. 

Periodically in Ukamba numbers of the younger people are 
seized by a peculiar form of infectious mania. One of these 
epidemics occurred about the end of 1906 in Ulu, and it attacked 
the victims in the following way : the sight of a hat or cap threw 
the person into a kind of fit. The whole body but particularly 
the upper portion — the shoulders, neck and head — would be 
violently convulsed and the patient would eventually fall down 
in a semi-insensible state and this condition would continue until 
the hat was removed. The convulsions appear to be involuntary 
and often when a person felt he was seized he would shut his 
eyes or cover his head with a blanket until he was assured that 
the hat had been removed. When questioned the victims of the 
seizure would state that they were otherwise in good health but 
that they had lost their appetite. 

Plate I 

(i) A-Kamba skulls. 

(2) A-Kamba skulls. 



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No. 6 


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It appeared to be immaterial whether the hat was a European 
helmet or a fez cap such as is worn by civilized natives. 

Cases of this curious mental condition first appeared in 
Mukaa which is in the southern part of Ulu district and it 
then spread north to Machakos. Very often it is said that 
the sight of a dog will induce a seizure. The Administrative 
Officer at Machakos himself saw cases and one of the local 
missionaries confirmed the account and said he had seen natives 
fall down in a fit at the sight of his wife's hat, he has also heard 
the natives say that some kinds of European vegetables produce 
the same effect. 

No one seems to have died owing to these seizures and the 
chiefs recently told me that it had died out for the time being. 
It IS called " Chesu " or " Ki-jesu " and some persons are of 
opinion that this name is derived from the Kamba pronunciation 
of Jesus, but this is very doubtful. It is said that someone will 
hear people talking about the seizures and next time he sees a 
hat or dog he will be seized^ ; it was principally confined to youths 
and girls. 

Numerical Proportions of the sexes. 

The statistics of the 38 families have been kindly obtained 
for me by Mr Humphry in the Ulu district of Ukamba and 
according to these the female children born are only two in 
excess of the male children. In my paper on the Kavirondo 
and Nandi published in 1903, Vol. y^y^^AW. Journal Anthropological 
Institute, from the statistics there given it would appear that 
among the Bantu tribes male births were in excess and among 
the Nilotic races female births were in excess. In the present 
case the births of the two sexes are practically equal in number 
and it is difficult to see how polygamy can exist under these 
circumstances and some people are of opinion that it is only 
kept up at the present day by the men marrying women of two 
generations, viz. : women of their own generation and as they 
grow older marrying girls of a younger generation, but this can 
in no way be taken as an explanation. In times past intertribal 
fighting swept out a large number of male lives annually and 

^ Auto-suggestion? 



also homicide was far more common than at present. Moreover 
among European races infantile mortality is greater among the 











Nthiwa wa Makwaba 






Mwangi wa Nzuki 





Mathendu wa Mwatu 






Congo wa Katui 






Mbunja wa Muthiaawi 






Nthiwa wa Mwathia 






Malandi wa Mathendu 






Nthiwa wa Mbu 






Ntho wa Kabui 






Kiali wa Katho 






Nzau wa Ngunzu 






Wanka wa Kiema 






Nzoka wa Mule 






Nzuki wa Ngolo 






Maiendi wa Kathuma 






Mohindwa Nthali 






Nzau wa Kini 






Ndolo wa Kituta 






Kioko wa Kuku 






Kilonso wa Mweo 






Kalombi wa Kathio 






Nthiwa wa Tama 






Ngumo wa Ithalan 






Mwathia wa Nthuku 





Mthota wa Machako 






Nguma wa Kinwatho^ 






Chalo wa Machako 





Mutuotwi wa Machako 






Ngulu wa Kituku 





Nzau wa Nduta 






Mobindu wa Nduta 





Chuli wa Nthuli 





Ndeti wa Kibai 






Ndeti wa Nzobi 





Nguku wa Nzuki 





Ndeketha wa Malalomi ... 





Ndiko wa Mwatha 






Mtuteti wa Ngau 











^ All except two of them died in the famine. 



male sex than among the female and the same may apply in 

Some of the missionaries are of opinion however that in 
a generation or so polygamy will practically cease to exist 
among the A-Kamba owing to the shortage of women, but this 
will really be due to the greater percentage of survivals of male 

There is another factor which may have some importance 
and that is that, it is said death during confinement is very 
common among Kamba women. 


FOOD, MEALS, etc. 

The A-Kamba generally eat about three times a day : 
At 7.0 a.m. 
12.0 noon. 
7.0 to 8.0 p.m. or even later. 

At 7.0 a.m. they cook meal and make gruel or they warm up 
food, generally "mbaazi," or Nzu {cajanus indicus) left over from 
the night before. 

At noon they are generally either in the shambas or away 
with their cattle and they eat some gruel made of boiled meal 
and water. 

In the evening they eat porridge made with water or gruel 
which after cooking is mixed with milk, and they cook pieces of 
meat and eat them with porridge but not mixed with the 
porridge ; of course their dietary varies a good deal with what 
crops are in season. 

Gruel made of mtama, mawele or wimbi meal and water is 
called UsurUy it is stirred with a stick called MuL 

Gruel made of meal and water but after cooking mixed with 
milk is called Kitheki. 

Porridge made of meal is called Ngima. 

A favourite dish is honey mixed with Usuru or gruel, water 
is added to the mixture and it is stirred up and drunk. 

Sweet potatoes boiled or roasted whole in the ashes are a 
favourite food. 

Green bananas peeled and boiled whole are eaten to some 
extent. They also put green bananas inside a calabash and 
ripen them, bananas are said to ripen quicker when not exposed 
to the open air. 



There are two aromatic herbs which they often mix with 
their food, one called Lungnuyu and belonging to the Legu- 
minosae is mixed with thin gruel. The other, Koho by name, is 
a very pleasant smelling herb with an acid flavour, and is cooked 
with meat and mixed with tobacco, it belongs to the Labiatae 
and is probably one of the Ocimum group. 

They eat salt with Ngima or porridge also with cooked green 
bananas, Indian corn, mbaazi and meat, but not with gruel 
{Usurii). The salt is made from saline mud mixed with water 
and strained, they now-a-days, however, also buy coast salt from 
the local shops. 



Many of the A-Kamba scarify patterns on the chest and 
abdomen, these markings are called Ndoo or Nzomo, they are 
said to have no particular significance but to be only for 
ornament. A favourite device is a couple of crescent shaped 
patterns between the breasts and another is a triangular shaped 
pattern on the abdomen rising from a belt which is carried all 
round the body. 

In Kitui and Mumoni the women are often ornamented with 
a number of parallel cicatrized lines below the breasts and down 
to the abdomen, and these frequently result in unsightly keloid 
growths. The cicatrization is performed with a needle and knife 
used conjointly^ 

The A-Kamba have a custom (elsewhere unknown in East 

^ On the N. side of the Tana R. opposite Mumoni, among the Emberre people, 
cicatrization is often carried out to an exaggerated extent (see Plate II.). 

H. 2 



Africa) of sharpening to a point the incisor teeth in the upper 
jaw, in Ulu as many as 4 and sometimes 6 (including the two 
canines) are thus sharpened but at Kitui, Kibwezi and Mumoni 
they often only chip a triangular shaped space between the two 
middle incisors of the upper jaw. 

This operation is performed by a tiny chisel, the teeth are 
cleverly chipped in a very regular manner and the points are 
terribly sharp. Now-a-days these small chisels are generally made 
from pieces of the steel frame of an old umbrella. 11 

They also knock out the two middle incisors from the 
lower jaw. ^| 

If they lose one of the sharpened incisors they cleverly insert 
false ones fashioned from the tooth of an ox, now-a-days how- 
ever, it is said that they prefer to make these false teeth from 
the tooth of a hartebeest as they do not become discoloured. 
This shows that this art has been practised for a considerable 
period. 11 

They first bore a hole in the stump of the original tooth and 
then drive in the new tooth. I have seen some of these false 
teeth and they appeared quite firm and were very difficult to 
distinguish from the natural teeth. 

Filing or chipping the teeth is generally supposed to be 
associated with cannibalism, but as far as can be ascertained no 
such custom exists among the A-Kamba and they deny having 
any legend of its former existence. jl 

The teeth are chipped after the first Nzaiko or circumcision 
ceremony and by the man who operates on that occasion. ii 

In Ulu district particularly the older men have a stupid " 
custom of pulling out the eye-lashes from the upper and lower 
lids, this often leads to a kind of chronic ophthalmia. They say 
their women would despise them if they omitted to do this. 



When a Mu-Kamba counts he extends the ist finger of t' 
right hand and with it presses down the left little or 4th finger 
into the palm of the hand for the number one, and then the 
3rd finger for two, the 2nd for three, the 1st for four, and 
when the thumb is reached and bent down, the count has reached 

Plate II 

(3) Mu-Kamba playing Mbebe. or fiddle. 

(4) Women of Emberre shewing cicatrization. 


five; then to continue he bends the left hand and clasps the 
little finger of the right hand and that is six, he clasps the right 
4th and 3rd finger for seven, the right 4th, 3rd and 2nd fingers 
for eight, the right 4th, 3rd, 2nd and ist fingers for nine, and for 
ten the two fists are put close together and held out, the thumbs 
are uppermost and folded inside the fists. 
The numerals are : — 

i = Imwe 10= Ekumii 

2 = Iili ii=Ekumi na imwe 

3 = Itatu i2 = Ekumi na yeli 

4 = Inya 2o=Miong\veli 

5 = Itano 30=Miongwe itatu 
6=Thanthatu 5o=Miongwe itano 

7 = Muontha ioo=Iana 

8 = Inyanya 200=Mana eli 

2 — 2 



Although the A-Kamba grow a varied selection of crops, 
they are not according to European ideas very skilled agri- 
culturists. They have been in touch with civilization longer 
than most of the up country tribes, but the iron hoe is still a 
rarity in the country and the bulk of the work in the fields is 
done with a pointed digging stick called Mo. 

In some parts of Kitui they plant sugar cane in pits in the 
valleys, a plan not seen anywhere else in the country. They 
have a rough idea of the rotation of crops. Irrigation is used to 
a considerable extent in the mountains and water is often taken 
for several hundred yards in furrows along the hill sides to water 
sugar cane plantations which are especially prized. 






Length of time between 



sowing and reaping 



Cajanus indicus 

II months 



Holcus sorghum 

4^ months, plant two 



Zea mays 

crops in one year 
Two crops, 4| months 




Two crops, 3^ months 





Two crops, 3^ months 



Sugar cane 

2 years 



s. Kikwa 
p. Vikwa 

Sweet potatoes 

(Batata edulis) 
Yams (Dioscorea) 

3^ months 
I year 




Two crops, 2 months 



Manioc (Manihot 


I year or more 

Two crops, 3^ months 




3^ months 



Big beans 

Two crops, 3^ months 




2 years 



Veg. marrow 

I month 



Colocasia edulis 

I year 


Not known 

Red beans 

Two crops, 3^ months 



Pulse (dhall) 

Two crops, 3^ months 




4 months 



The A-Kamba brand conventional patterns on the flanks o 
their cattle and they also sometimes mark the ears. They say 
that the practice of branding their cattle only dates back a 
generation or two and was copied from the Masai. Each clan 
has several brands, a certain family has its own brand but a 
member of the tribe will know at once which clan the brand 
belongs to. Curiously enough all the cattle are not branded but 
usually only those sent away to buy a wife with, or those paid as 
blood money for a deaths 

Specimens of the brands of most of the clans are given. 

Sheep and goats are branded by marks on their ears. 

The A-Kamba have no legend as to the origin of cattle and 
other domesticated animals, they say that there was a time when 
the tribe possessed no cattle but only hunted game. 

Names of principal animals ^ etc., in Ki-Kamba. 








Roan Antelope 


Coke's Hartebeest 

Gazella Grantii 











1 The Kamba word for a cattle brand is Cho pi. Vio or Ruoro pi. Viruoro. 



Gazella Thomsoni 






Greater Kudu 


Lesser Kudu 




Wart hog 












Serval cat 








Hunting dog 




Dik Dik 


Small antelope with white tail 


(reedbuck ?) 





Reptiles : 




Gu or Ngu 





Puff adder 


Spitting cobra 


Green mamba 


Brown grass snake 





Telembo — i 


Birds : 

Secretary bird 


Singa — red necked 



Greater bustard 
Lesser bustard 
Marabou stork 
Guinea fowl 
Spur fowl 
Pigeon (green) 

Hagadash Ibis 






lyuyu, others Gungu 




(Mangna — in Ulu 

(Maseo — in Kitui 

Insects : 

Hairy caterpillar 
Butterfly and Moth 

Soldier ants (siafu) 

Black ants (ponera) 

Boring hornets 

Hornets with mud nest 

Hornets with paper nest 


White ants (termites) 




Ngia — in the hopper stage — 



Nzuki, queen bee Mulue 
Muthwa, queen ant Munthai 

Cattle Brands: 





ear mark 





(on both sides of beast S and % ) 


(on both sides) 






Note. — It is doubtful if the oval mark 
is part of this clan's brand. 





















(mark continuous round rump i and ? ) 


(on both sides of beast) 


This is not a tribal brand but what is 
called " firing " for lung sickness, &c. 



Baskets. These are finely woven or rather plaited out of 
the fibre of the baobab and wild fig trees. Called Ckondo, pi. 

Corn is ground on a stone called Ibia and the grinding is 
done with a stone called Nthio. 

Fire is made by friction ; one piece of hard wood is twirled 
between the hands upon a softer piece and the wood dust so 
produced becomes ignited and lights some dry leaves. 

The hard stick twirled between the hands is called Uwindi, 
made of a tree called Mulenditi. The bottom piece is called 
Kika made of a tree called Choa. The dry leaves used as tinder 
are called Umbuthi. The apparatus is carried in a leather bag 
called Ngiiso. 

They have no ceremonial renewal of the fire at certain seasons 
as prevails among some peoples. 

Metal work. The Wakamba are very clever at working iron 
and copper wire into bracelets, necklets, etc., and also often 
utilize it in ornamenting stools, bows and clubs ; they say they 
learnt the art from the Wa-Giriama near the Coast. Metal 
working is not the monopoly of any particular clan or division. 

They use imported trade wire largely, but some of the metal 
workers in Machakos district still go to a small stream near 
Wathomi to collect iron ore for smelting ; this stream contains a 
fine grained iron sand and they separate the grains of iron ore 
from the silica by washing the sand in a dish made of a gourd in 
the same way as a prospector for gold would do, these are the 



only people in East Africa who appear to know this art\ Some 
clans do not forge iron at all. 

Pottery. They make cooking pots of clay, no wheel is used ; 
for water pots they use largs gourds. Women make the cooking 
pots, men only make the earthen " tuyeres " used in the forge. 

House building. They live in the usual type of circular 
African hut with walls about 4 feet high and a conical roof, the 
doors are absurdly small not more than 2 feet 6 inches high. 
See Plates III. and XL 

Inside there is a partition cutting off about \ of the circle 
and the head of the house and his wife sleep in this inner room ; 
they sleep on rude beds of wicker-work raised about 9 inches 
above the ground and the bed is covered with an ox hide. 

There are two fire-places in a hut, the children cook at the 
one near the door and their parents at the inner one, the children 
cannot go and sit at the inner fire-place. 

Men build the houses, they go and cut the wood required, 
the posts are called Kitui, the thin sticks Ngiti^ they then build 
the frame-work and leave it for the women to thatch. 

Traps^ etc. They are skilful at trapping game and birds and 
use several designs for different purposes. 

(i) A noose with a springe made of a bent bough and a 
trigger catch to release the latter, this trap or snare is called 

(2) A drop trap consisting of a flat slab of stone supported 
by a twig and baited with grain, the supporting twig is usually 
pulled away with a string ; this is used to catch birds and 
monkeys, it is called Ikehengi. 

(3) A running noose fitted inside a frame-work, there is no 
spring, two sticks are driven into the ground one on each side of 
a game track, a horizontal one is fastened to them at some little 
distance from the ground, the noose is very delicately fitted 
inside the frame ; a beast comes along, hits the horizontal bar 
with its head and shakes the frame- work, the result of this is that 
the noose probably drops on the animal's neck and he rushes 
forward and unwittingly draws it tight and is strangled, this is 
called Mwito. 

1 Iron smelting is now very rarely seen, they use a rude furnace of the Catalan 

type with charcoal fuel. 


Plate III 

(5) Interior of A-Kamba village — Ulu. 

(6) A-Kamba huts. 


(4) Kisungula — this is a mole-trap consisting of a hollow 
cylinder of soft wood about 5 J inches long and 4 inches external 
diameter. This is buried in a mole run and above is fixed a 
springe from which depends two strings, the one which carries 
the pull of the bent stick is taken through the diameter of the 
cylinder and stops the passage of the mole, the other string which 
is a running noose is carefully laid out round a groove at the 
end of and inside the cylinder. The mole emerges from his run, 
enters the cylinder and finds his way blocked by the thin string 
and proceeds to gnaw it through. At the same time although 
he does not know it the noose is encircling his body. He gnaws 
away at the string obstructing his road when suddenly snap it 
goes, and he finds the noose drawn tight and the trapper comes 
round and usually finds both the trap and mole dangling in the 
air from the released springe. 

Native Beer. The A-Kamba call beer " Uki " whatever it is 
made of. 

(i) Ukiya-iwa (sugar cane beer) — the sugar cane is cut into 
bits and placed in a mortar called " Ndi " and beaten with a pole 
or wooden pestle called Muthi, the pulp is then placed in water 
to dissolve out the juice, it is then taken out and the juice 
wrung out of it by placing it in the centre of a mass of fibre of 
the wild banana ; a man at each end of the roll twists as hard as 
he can and the juice oozes through the strands of the fibre, the 
roll is then unwound and the dry pulp thrown away. 

The liquor is put in a gourd near a fire and slices of the dried 
fruit of the Kigelia Africana is put into the liquor to start 
fermentation. This fruit is first boiled for a long time to extract 
its natural juices which are not palatable — the Kigelia fruit is 
called Miatini (the popular European name of the Kigelia is the 
" sausage tree " so called from the shape of its fruit). 

(2) Honey beer is also made but it is not in such general 
use among this tribe as sugar cane beer ; it is also fermented by 
the fruit of the Kigelia. The native beer is drunk with a 
Njeli or rough drinking vessel made of half a small calabash, it 
is not sucked up through a tube as is the custom in the tribes 
around Lake Victoria. The Njeli from which food is eaten is 
larger and is called Ua. 


The beer is ladled out from a large gourd called Kiku. 

Women cannot be present when the men meet to drink beer. 
The beer is either drunk on what is called the Thomi clearing 
outside the village or in a house where the beer is manufactured. 

Outside every village there is an open space called Thomi — 
the boys of the village are sent every morning to sweep it and 
light a fire there. The old men of the village sit there a great 
part of the day and eat and drink beer there. No woman is 
allowed to use the Thomi for her domestic pursuits or to sit 
there ; if a woman broke this rule she would be beaten, it is said 
that this prohibition has existed for many generations and 
originated in the desire of the old men to have some place where 
they could talk over affairs without being overheard by the 
women of the village who could not keep counsel with regard to 
any business they overheard, but would generally tell their 

Musical Instruments. 

(i) They make a one-stringed harp or fiddle with a piece of 
a gourd or calabash attached to it to act as a sound box, this 
instrument is played by a tiny bow {Uta\ this is the only 
instrument known of in East Africa which is played by a bow ; 
it is called Mbebe, See Plate II. 

(2) They make bamboo pipes with a gourd attached to the 
end to magnify the sound, some are very skilful in the use of 
this instrument and can imitate bugle calls with great accuracy, 
it is called {Soo\ The horns made of Eland or Koodoo horns 
are also called Soo. , 

(3) Pipes or whistles are made from the horn of a small 
buck, these are called Nguli and Zomali if made of wood. They 
are able to transmit news from one to another at long distances 
by the Nguli^ it was formerly used to give warning from hill top' 
to hill top of enemies (generally the Masai) approaching from thdi 
plains. Only certain persons however understand the code of 
signals used in the transmission of news by this instrument. 

(4) Drums of various kinds are used : 
{a) The ordinary native drum Kithembi is open at one end, 

the dance in which this drum is used is called Athi. 





{b) Small drums beaten by the hands open at one end are 
called Ngutha. 

{c) Small drums held horizontally and beaten by both 
hands are called Engoma, they are only used when 
anyone is sick, to move the Aiimu or spirits. 

{d) Long drums consisting of a hollow wooden cylinder 
about 4 inches in diameter and 4 feet long with 
a handle at the top and open at the bottom are 
made, the drum is beaten on hard ground, this 
pattern appears to be peculiar to the Wakamba, it 
is called Muvungu or Cha^ and is only used by the 
young people. 


The A-Kamba are great bee-keepers and they suspend from 
the trees hollow cylinders of wood the ends of which are roughly 
closed by a piece of plank ; thousands of these will be seen 
throughout the country, they are called Mwatu and are usually 
made of a reddish wood called Miikaati^ it has a sticky leaf and 
white sap. 

Honey is carried in small wooden drums, sealed at both ends 
by a cap of raw hide, these are called KitJumbi wa Uki. 

The bee-hives are usually marked at one end by the mark of 
the clan, the following is the bee-hive brand of the Aitangwa 

Beehive brand, Kitutu clan. 




The A-Kamba collect large quantities of beeswax and sell it 
to the itinerant traders who export it. 


Stool Manufacture. 

Some of the most artistic articles turned out by the A-Kamba 

are their stools — Ibila or Ivila. They are round in shape and 

have three legs. See Plate IV. They are made of various woods : 

(i) Kiwazi or Muasi, 

(2) Muinga, 

(3) Kivuti, 

(4) Mana, 

(5) Mutungu ; 
the first mentioned is the best. 

The tree is felled with a small native axe called an Itkok'a ^ 
the trunk is then cut into lengths and each piece is shaped with 
an adze {Ngomo) and a knife {Kavio). 

The stool now being carved into its final shape some thin 
brass and copper wire is bought, this is annealed, drawn out to 
the proper thickness and then spirally wrapped on a fine wire in 
a little machine called Kilingi^ the wire inside the spiral is then 
withdrawn. The pincers used for drawing the wire to its required 
thickness are called Ngolia and the gauge through which the 
wire is drawn is called Uta. 

Symmetrical designs are then drawn on the top of the stool, 
the centre of the stool being found by rough measurements and 
a circular pattern is usually started at the centre and segments 
of circles are drawn by the aid of a piece of wire at intervals in 
the region of the outer edge of the stool, triangles are drawn by 
eye. Considering how little measurement is done the patterns 
are extraordinarily regular and symmetrical, the circular top of 
the stool is not measured, it is fashioned entirely by eye. 

When the design is settled, the craftsman takes a length of 
the spirally coiled wire, stretches it a little so that the coils are not 
quite contiguous and then deftly hammers it into the wood of 
the stool with the butt end of his axe. The wood is, however, 
first well licked with the tongue to render it soft. 

The ornamentation completed, holes are bored through the 
legs of the stool and a chain passed through, the object of the 


Plate IV 

(7) A-Kamba stools. 




^^W^^^^^^^^^^ '' — .^^^^Hm 

■j^^K fMiii. ^^mm 

' "-^ 1""^ ' 


(8) A-Kamba stools. 

(9) Kamba ornaments, etc., girl's aprons, adzes. 


chain being to enable the stool to be slung over the shoulders of 
the owner. 

The stools are then well rubbed with grease and the inlaid 
metal work polished with the leaves of a kind of sorrel — Kiungu 
or Kiuvi, the acid juice of which produces the desired effect. 

The patterns on the stools are called Milia and most of these 
patterns have some origin. Thus : 

This pattern is called Kithaitha and is derived from a bead 
ornament formerly worn by old women, it is supposed to mimic 
a star. 

This pattern is called Vioo after a common form of cattle 

This pattern is called Eumu and is said to represent arrow 




This pattern is called Kitui and is supposed to represent the 
framework of a hut. ' 

The circles in the centre are said to represent the moon. 

The device in the centre is called Kattmgi and represents an 
ornament made of beads worn by A-Kamba girls. 


The above pattern is taken from a bead ornament made 
red, white and black beads worn by A-Kamba women on the 
upper arm. 



This pattern represents the plan of the framework of a kind 
of gigantic wicker bottle which are constructed for storing grain 
in the village granaries — called Keinga. The shape of the Keinga 
in elevation is derived from the gourd or calabash. 



Kamba stool pattern called Kizoro. 

The portion marked A is called Kisolo and is a copy of a cicatrization mark. 

The portion B is taken from the usual shape of the stool leg seen in elevation. 



Woman's stool — Kitui. 

This is peculiar to Kitui; only women are allowed to use 
them, if a man unwittingly sits on one of these stools he has 
to pay a fine of one goat\ It is much higher than a man's 

^ The fine is really for the purification of the man who is considered to have 
become ceremonially unclean through sitting on a woman's stool. 



The young women wear a leather apron studded with beads 
of hammered brass, this is called a Kimengo. See Plate IV. 

The older women wear a piece of skin round the loins, it has 
however now-a-days given place to a piece of cotton cloth — it is 
called Kitami. 

Young girls wear a diminutive apron studded with beads 
arranged in patterns and called Katungi and in some parts, 
Thaka for instance, made of leather tassels, it is then called 
a Muchi. 

Young men and young women often wear a sort of corset 
made of strings of beads, this is called a Kikuto. 

Young dandies wear spats on each ankle made of beads and 
called Mithanga. See Plate IX. 

The old men and most of the young men now-a-days drape 
themselves in trade blankets. 

The old men carry fly whisks made of the tail of an ox or 
better still the tail of a wildebeeste, this is called Muingu, 
They also wear : 

Necklets of iron wire on which fine copper wire is closely 

wrapped, called Imili. 
Necklets of copper rings, called Mulia ya Ngingo. 
Necklets of brass or copper beads, called Ndiki, 
Ear-rings of chain, called Munyo, 
Ear-rings of copper or brass, called Mulia va Kutu. 
Armlets of brass or copper, called Mtdinga. 
Bracelets of flat pieces of brass or copper, called Kitanga, 
Rings of iron and brass on the fingers, called Engomi. 



Snuff bottles made of horn or wood, called Kiangi. 
Flat circular ornaments made out of helicoid shells, worn 
on the forehead and called Ibuo, 
Only Watumia or elders are allowed to wear a dressed goat 
skin cloak. 



Snuff-bottle— Kitui. 

Snuff-bottle— Kitui. 

Before the blanket age the Anake (warriors) and Anthele 
(married men) wore a piece of ox hide, the garment of an 
Anthele being longer than that of the Mwa7take and that of a 
Mutumia being longer than either, about six goat skins would 
be used in making the cloak of a Mutumia, 

A long time ago the Anake were only allowed to wear a 

Plate V 

(lo) Mu-Kamba woman carrying firewood. 

(ii) A-Kamba women carrying children. 





L SA TH£/> 

Snuflf-bottle— Kitui. 

Tweezers for removing hair and small brush used in snuff-taking from Kitui. 



small piece of goat skin slung from the back. Before blankets 
became common there was a great demand for cotton cloth and 
the Swahili traders made great profit obtaining a goat for 
two yards of the common Bombay calico and for ten yards they 
often bought a cow, this however was before the great rinderpest 
epidemic of 1891. 



In war their custom is to attack at night, they would march 
under cover of darkness to within striking distance of the place 
of attack and there rest until between 4.0 and 5.0 a.m. so that 
after the attack was delivered it would be about sunrise and 
they could see to collect the captured live-stock. 

They do not use spears and shields, but only bows and 
arrows, simes (the native sword) and clubs; they explain their 
use of the bow as being due to the fact that they were originally 
a tribe of hunters. 

Their arrows i^Mize) are beautifully made and very accurately 
feathered, the iron point is fitted to a small piece of wood about 
three to four inches long which fits in a socket in the shaft, the 
iron point and this tiny shaft stay in the wound, the main 
portion drops off. The wood of the front portion is usually 
carved with a distinctive clan mark, which in the chase is taken 
as evidence of the claim of ownership to a slain animal. 

The arrows are of three kinds : 

(i) Those without feathers, called Moluka, 

(2) Feathered but with unpoisoned points, the points are 

often of hard wood, called Maange. 

(3) Feathered, with iron points and poisoned, called Musi. 
The young men have archery competitions, but there are no 

prizes given. 

It is said that with a Moluka arrow they can shoot over 
200 yards and with a Musi arrow can wound a man at 100 yards. 

The feathers of the arrows are stuck on to the shaft by the 
juice of the fig tree called Mumo, which contains a certain 
amount of rubber. 



Many of their bows ( Uta) are bound from end to end by fine 
copper and iron wire. The quiver in which the arrows are 
carried is called Thiaka\ it is made of leather. 

The A-Kamba hunters are very good shots with their bows, 
especially at what may be termed " snap-shooting " at a running 
animal at fairly close range. 

Nearly all their arrows are poisoned and this poison which is 
called Ivai is not made by any particular clan or by medicine 
men. It is made from the wood of the Muvai tree and probably 
contains the Strophanthus alkaloid (the usual tree in other parts 
of the Protectorate is Akokanthera Schimperi), In addition to 
the Muvai the poison gland of the scorpion is used {Mbua Mbui 
it is called). The ingredients are cut up into little bits and 
cooked in a pot with water, after boiling the mixture for some 
time the bits of wood, etc., are taken out and the solution 
remaining is evaporated until a dark treacly mass remains, the 
poison is then ready for use. 

If the poison becomes dry and hard it will not readily dissolve 
in the wound, so to keep it moist and fresh each arrow head is 
carefully wrapped in a very thin pliable strip of leather which is 
specially wound round the iron point and the part of the shaft 
to which the poison has been applied. 

The simi or sword is generally over two feet long : it is called 
UbiUy the sheath is called Ndo, There is a smaller sim^ called 
Nzomo which can only be worn by a Mutumia and not by Anake 
or Anthele : it is worn on a belt called Ndabu. 

Their clubs are long and pointed, they are often beautifully 
wrapped with fine copper wire. Clubs are called Ndata. 

The bulk of the A-Kamba formerly lived in great terror of 
the Masai, who about 25 to 30 years ago dominated the interior 
of East Africa from the Nyika to near Lake Victoria, and it was 
only the mountainous nature of their country that enabled the 
A-Kamba to maintain their independence ; in those days the 
Masai kraals extended eastwards as far as Simba and Mkindu 
stations on the Uganda railway. 

The A-Kamba, however, continually made desultory efforts 
to recapture cattle from the Masai and carried on a sort of 
guerilla warfare with them, parties of Anake would hide in the 

Plate VI 

(12) Girl from Mumoni. 

(13) Mumoni women and girls. 


bush on the fringe of the open country and occasionally cut off 
small parties of herdsmen who were herding their cattle too far 
from the kraals for safety. 

If a Mwanake killed a Masai and returned with the spear of 
his enemy he became quite a personage. He would report the 
encounter to his father and an ox was killed to celebrate the 
event ; two strips of skin were cut from, the hide of the animal, 
and one of these strips was threaded on the second finger of 
each hand and each strip was again split into four tails. These 
strips were called Ngwalo. Thus adorned he would make a tour 
among his relations belonging to the same Mbai or clan and 
boast of his powers, and at each village he would receive four 
goats; he might with luck collect as many as loo goats, and 
he would henceforth be called a Mutwe tumo. 

If another warrior had helped in the fight he would get the 
Sim^ or sword of the enemy, he would also receive presents in a 
less degree and would be called a Mutwe ubiu. 

In those days no warriors but those who had killed a Masai 
or helped to kill one were supposed to be able to marry. As 
however in practice this proved to be an impossible condition, a 
successful combatant would secretly meet his friends in the 
woods and would distribute among them portions of the outfit 
of the dead enemy (say a few ostrich feathers out of the dead 
Moran's headdress) they would then go back and successfully 
pretend that they had assisted in the melee and this would be 
accepted as qualifying them for a bride. 

If a party of hunters killed an elephant the ivory was stored 
away and sold to a trader for cattle and the one whose arrow 
was the first to wound the beast received the biggest share of the 
cattle and so on in order of merit. 

In former days the Kilungu section of the A-Kamba, when 
fighting another section, would take a prisoner and partially flay 
narrow strips of skin from his body; they would commence at his 
hips and flay vertical strips of skin a couple of inches wide up to 
the height of the shoulders and then send the wretched man back 
to his friends with the pieces of skin flapping about, or failing a 
male prisoner, they would slit open the breasts of a woman captive 
and send her back — this was done to impress the other A-Kamba 


with their fierceness as there was a long standing feud between 
the Kilungu people and the rest of the tribe. U 

In inter-tribal warfare it was a common custom for prisoners 

Specimens of A-Kainba arrow marks. 





p. Akua mark 



s. p. 





s. Musi I mark 



p. Asii 



mark only on point 


Note. — The above are from Ulu district, in Kitui there appear to be no' 

particular clan marks. 


to be ransomed for 1 1 cows and one bull which is the price of a 
man's life. 

It is said that in times past a section of the Masai and the 
A-Kamba of Ulu lived in amity on the Yatta plateau on the 
east side of the Athi river opposite Kanjalu and Mwala, but a 
quarrel broke out over some ostrich feathers stolen by an 
A-Kamba; this led to war between the two tribes and ever 
since then a feud has existed between the two races. 

Peace Ceremony. 

Kithito, Peace is made by the oath of the Kithito which is 
the most solemn and binding thing known to the Wakamba. 
This oath is not only taken upon the occasion of a treaty of 
peace but when any other especially serious covenant is being 
entered into. 

The Kithito is a horn, either an ox horn or the horn of an 
antelope and occasionally the tusk of a wart hog, and the hollow 
end of the horn or tusk is filled with samples of various foods, 
Indian corn, mawele, milk, a piece of skin cut from the nose of a 
hyaena, a medicine man {Muoiin) will prepare the horn. These 
horns are very old and have been handed down from generation 
to generation by their forefathers; they are looked upon with 
great awe and mystery, being hidden away in the woods, and 
they must on no account be kept in houses or their presence 
would probably prove fatal to the inmates. A Kithito must 
never be handled with the bare hand but can only be safely 
picked up with a piece of sheep's fat in each hand; it can only 
be safely carried about suspended from a string called Musizili 
(made from the bark of a tree of that name). 

If a Kithito is being carried along a road and a person is 
seen approaching he is told to pass on the right side of the one 
who is carrying it, if he did not heed the warning and passed on 
the left side he would surely die. 

Well suppose two sections of the tribe have been fighting 
and wish to make peace, an old man belonging to one of the 
contracting parties will go and fetch a Kithito] every division 
does not possess one and he may have to make a considerable 
journey to obtain one — the elder who owns a Kithito will not 


send it by another person but will bring it himself. The owner 
who is nearly always a Miioiin places the Kithito on three stones 
and alongside lays two or three small sticks, the sticks are from 
the Mukulwa and Miitatha bushes. A is the representative of 
one of the belligerent parties, he is given the Mukulwa stick to 
hold, and he strikes the Kithito three times with the stick and 
swears on behalf of his people, " If I fight again with B may the 
Kithito kill me " ; the same stick is then given to B who taps the^^ 
Kithito three times and makes a similar declaration, ™B 

If the crops are still standing in the fields then each of the 
contracting parties brings a sheep and the elders stifle these 
animals by holding the nose, and the contents of the stomachs of 
the beasts are sprinkled over and around the Kithito and also 
over the adjacent crops, no harm will then come to them, only 
the very old men can eat the meat of these animals. 

Before the Kithito ceremony can be performed for a peace- 
making, the two conflicting sides must have mutually agreed to 
compensate for those who have been killed on each side. If, 
however, the A-Kamba had fought with people who were 
considered as a separate tribe the ceremony could take place 
without compensation having been agreed on. «■ 

For instance, the people of the Kilungu valley were con- 
sidered so distinct from the people of Ulu that it was not 
necessary to arrange about compensation previous to performing^ 
the Kithito ceremony with that division. 


Formerly if they fought the A-Kikuyu and captured prisoners 
they sold them. 

If in a fight a man was overpowered and he seized the breast 
of his captor with his mouth his life was spared, and he lived in 
the village of his captor and worked herding cattle, but he could 
not be sold. 

Other prisoners were sold to the Arab and Swahili slave- 
traders, girl captives were generally sold to another Mkamba. 
A girl realised two cows and 20 goats, a man would be sold to 
the Swahili traders for 30 Amerikani cloths of four yards each. 







Boy Kivisi, sing. 

Nisi, plur. 

Young man or ) Mwanake, s. 
warrior C Anake, p. 

Young girl, child... Muitu, sing. 
Weitu, plur. 

Unmarried girl Mundu mukaa 

Married woman) ^. ■ 
who has borne y 'P; ' ^• 
a child ) ^P^^''P- 

Old woman Mukuu 

Childless woman... Ngungu 

Middle aged man... Nthele, s. 
Anthele, p. 

Old man Mutumia 

Old man, headman of ) Mutumia 
his own village only ) Mukuu 

A chief. Mutumia munene 

A hereditary chief ) Mutumia mu- 
over a tract of? nene wa 
country muthanga 

A Kivisi corresponds to a laioni among the Masai, he is 
circumcised when he is about lo to 12 years old, but after 
circumcision does not necessarily change his grade ; he becomes 
a Mwanake when his father decides that he is big enough, he is 
then allowed to wear necklets and anklets. A Mwanake can 
only marry when his father allows him. See Plate X. 

A Nthele can only have one wife, he is frequently the captain 
of a company or section of a company of warriors. See Plate XIII. 

It is only rarely that individual chiefs have any great power 
and with the exception of presents of beer their people pay them 
no tribute. 

The real power is vested in the council of elders and they 
generally get their way. 

H. /L 


If, for instance, a man refuses to pay some compensation 
which the elders have adjudged that he is to pay for the injury 
inflicted on a third party, the elders go in a body, unarmed, to 
his village and order him to pay and if he still refuses they turn 
out their young men and attack his village. 

When the elders pay a domiciliary visit of this nature the 
owner of the village is bound by the custom of the tribe to 
present a goat or bullock to the elders and it is killed and eaten 
by them. 


The following is a genealogical tree shewing the names Dy 
which a man designates his various relations : 

Mundu asa 


parents of father 



Asa=A*s father 

parents of mother 

Mweitu = A's mother 


= other wives 

of A's father 



I 1 

<f A ? ? 


brother by 

same mother 


elder sister 

by same mother 

Mweitu aya 

younger sister 

by same mother 

A ^ marries B $ , he calls her — Mukaa akaa. 

(wife) (my) 
B calls A — Mwe mewa. 

(my husband) 
They call their child — Mwana akwa, pi. Wana asa. 

(child my) 
A calls brother of B ? — Mwanaya. 
A calls sister of B $ — Mwanaya. 
A calls uncles and aunts — Ana asa. 

A calls children of father's brother — Mwana asa, sing.: Wana 
asa, pi. 

A calls his mother-in-law — Muthonua. 


A calls son's wife — Mukaa mwana akwa. 
A calls daughter's husband — Muthonua. 
A calls grandchild — Njugulu akwa. 

They cannot as a rule trace back their genealogy for many 
generations, vide chief Nthiwa. 

Nthiwa (has 15 wives) 

He cannot remember any further back and very few of the 
elders can go back for three generations. 

The smiths are a hereditary guild; there is, however, ap- 
parently no reason why other people should not be ironworkers 
except that they cannot do the work. Women never work iron 
but they sometimes blow the bellows. Unlike, among the Masai, 
smiths among the A-Kamba can marry anyone they like, subject 
of course to the ordinary rules in force as to exogamy. No 
legend with regard to the discovery of ironworking could be 

There is a legend that the first human being on earth was 
half man and half woman, he was called Mukuu and lived in 
Kikumbuliu district near a hill called I-Kuua, he brought fire 
with him to this earth and was the father and mother of man- 
kind ; his progeny found the various food plants growing wild 
in the valleys and they did not know at first how to plant or 
cultivate the soil. 




A man to a woman will say Umuvoo. 

The woman will reply Inimuvoo. 

An old man to an old man will say Umuvoo. 

The reply will be Inimuvoo. 
A young man (Anake) to another young man will say Waiya. 

The reply will be Waiya. 

A man to a child will say Nosio. 

The reply will be Ah. 

A man to a youth (Anake) will say Oponiao. 

The reply will be Ah. 

A man to a girl (Muitu) will say Wakia. 

The reply will be Ah. 

A woman to a man will say Umuvoo. 

The reply will be Inimuvoo. 

Time. f | 

The A-Kamba state that they reckon eleven months in their 
year (Anzwa) : 

the planting month. 

the time of the autumn rains. 

the sprouting month. 

commence reapmg. 















Plate VII 

(14) Kamba chief — Nthiwa wa Tama. 

(15) Nthiwa wa Tama. 


(8) Nyanya Nyanya means friend. 

(9) Kenda means nine. 

(10) Ekumi means ten. In 1907 this month began 

about August loth. 

(11) Mubiu the season for burning the grass. 

The year is made up of two rainy seasons with dry spells 
between each : 

Ambua anzwa 
Ambua ua. 

They state that the month contains 3 1 days and that on the 
32nd day they see the new moon ; they say they do not count the 
first day on which the moon is seen. 

They believe that on the day the month is finished no child 
is born and no domestic animal gives birth. 

One of the clans is called the Mu-Mwei (plural Amwet) and 
among the people of this clan no house may be swept on the 
last day of the month {Mwei means moon in Kikamba). 

Songs and Dances. 

They have songs sung by the women alone on the occasion 
of a wedding : these are called Mavio. 

Other songs sung by the men alone at a marriage are called 
Kwina wathi wa Mavio. 

The songs sung at a gathering upon the occasion of a death 
are called Kuia Muntu. 

The songs and dances which take place at the gathering of 
the crops are called Kilunii\ the performers are solely old women 
and only women who have borne more than one child. 

The dances which are performed on the occasion of a birth 
are also called Kilumi: they take place four days after the child 
is born. 

If a woman who has only borne one child joins in a Kilumi 
dance, the dance will break up in confusion and the women will 
rush off to the hut of the woman who has unlawfully broken into 
the dance and loot it and carry off her property. During a 
Kilumi dance women will often fall down in a cataleptic trance. 

Dances in which young men and women both participate are 
called Wathi, 



The old men never dance. 

The songs sung by women when tilling the fields are called 
Kuthia, '^l 

The songs sung by men when travelling or cultivating are 
called Kuisia chiibi. wA 

In Mumoni there is a dance called Cheli^ it is a dance of 
young men and girls, it is not held at any special time and it is 
not known that there are any special customs connected with it, 
but the girls wear a cape made of white beads with a high collar 
and descending low enough to cover the breasts. The per- 
formers jump up and down in a suggestive manner with their 
cheeks pressed together ; it is said that this dance often leads to 
undue intimacy between the performers. This cape is shown in 
Plate VI. 

called Kweta ndai and are said to be very 


These are 
numerous. The following are a few examples: 

1. Q. Nduma 

(What fastens up the moon?) 

2. Q. O-Selia 

(What is it first goes forward 
and then backi*) 

3. Q. Mwetu etiki 

(My mother is very big.) 

4. Q. Tuna Kwatana 

(We take hold of each other.) 

5. Q. Wo wiwa (wo is a corrup- 

tion of ngo) 
(The heart likes it.) 

A. Muumbi 

A. Kimbu 

A. Kulotoi 

(Wild banana, the stem of which 
is very thick.) 

A. Nzia na nzia 

(One road crossing another.) 

A. Kinto Kitheo 
(A pleasant thing.) 

Natural Phenomena. 

Hail {Mabid) is believed to be brought by a special Muimu 
who has received orders from Engai to bring it. It is said to be 
a sign of shortness of rainfall. The people go and pray at the 
clearing under a Mumbo tree and sacrifice a goat, or even a 
bullock, eating half and leaving half there. 

Lightning called Utisi, thunder Kitalaliki^ is believed to be 



brought by a Muimu at the orders of Engai, it is the thunder 
that is believed kills people, not the lightning. If anyone is 
killed by lightning no one will touch or move the body, the 
people say the person is killed by God, if anyone does touch a 
person who has been killed by lightning he or she will also be 
struck. If a cow or other animal is killed by lightning it is 

A rainbow is called Utahathi, If seen often it is a sign of 
shortness of rain : it is a bad sign. 

Shooting stars called Ndata are supposed to be manifesta- 
tions of Engai. 

Comets are called Ndata midili^ but they are recognized as 
distinct from shooting stars, they are bad omens, being portents 
of the death of people and cattle and also of impending famine. 

An eclipse is called Mumbi\ it is not looked upon as being of 
particular significance. 

An earthquake is called Engai. The people are afraid of the 
occurrence but it is not considered to have any significance. 

The morning star is called Kithioi, the evening star Ngenyandi. 
Neither is supposed to have any particular significance. 

Nature Myths, 

The A-Kamba possess a pretty star myth about a race 
called the Wa-Isa which lives in the stars, and when the Wa-Isa 
bathe rain falls, and when they do not bathe the earth suffers 
from drought. When a meteor falls they say a Mu-Isa has 
come to visit the earth, and also tell you that no Mu-Isa can 
stay on earth, and no one has ever been privileged to see one. 

They also believe that rain often comes with the new moon 
and have a pretty explanation to the effect that the new moon 
must wash her face when she reappears, and the water with 
which she bathes sometimes falls on the earth as rain. 


The A-Kamba play the African game of bau or Mutingwano 
as they call it ; instead of three rows of holes they play with one 
row of ten holes — the pebbles are thrown up and caught, if any 
are dropped in the process the player loses points. 


In the month of thandatu when the crops are ripe, the people 
meet, hold dances and play Mutingwano. ffl 

They do not know how to play string games (cat's cradle). 11 

No toys in the true sense of the word have been observed 
among the A-Kamba, they do not make tops. Jl 

The children play with stones and the yellow (Solanum) fruit. 
One stone or fruit is taken into the hand and thrown up into the 
air while another is picked and the one in the air caught in the 
same hand as the one picked from the ground. This is done 
till one is dropped when some one else has a try and so on till 
one does it a greater number of times than the others. No bets 
seem to take place on it. 

Boys walk on their hands with their legs in the air, each 
trying to walk further than the other. 

Boys and girls play at being married. When their parents 
are in the shambas two small children build a small hut and go 
inside pretending to be man and wife, food of mud is made and 
a pretence made of eating it. 

Children also stand on their heads trying who can stand the 
longest in an inverted position. They stand for a long time like 
this before one falls down, even as long as 1 5 — 20 minutes. 

Children are also very fond when near a sheet of water of 
putting the head under water and trying to stay longer under- 
neath than their playmates. 


The A-Kamba hold markets called Chiathi ya mathoa. They 
are, however, not large daily gatherings as in Kavirondo. The 
assemblies are more or less spontaneous and are not organized 
by any particular chief and no one takes a percentage on the 
sales transacted thereat. 



In former times when some A-Kamba were going on a long 
journey a small ceremony was performed at the first stream 
encountered on the road. Each person as he reached the stream 
would dip the end of his bow in the water and touch his lips 
with the wetted bow, he would then jump or wade across the 
stream and drop a stone on the far side, only then could he drink 
from the stream \ 


In pre-administration days at the time of great famine or 
visitation of cattle disease it was the custom to sacrifice at the 
Ithembo shrine (under the sacred fig tree) a small child and then 
bury it there. The mother of the child was afterwards compen- 
sated for her loss. 

Suicide^ etc. 

If a man's wife refuses to cohabit with her husband, he will 
sometimes go into the woods, dig up the tuber or bulb of a plant 
called Kilia Mbiti, grind it up with water, and drinking the 
mixture, poison himself The antidote to this poison is the fresh 
blood of a sheep. 

Occasionally cattle die of a disease which kills them almost 
immediately they appear to be stricken with it, and anyone 
eating the meat of such a beast dies too. This is not looked 
upon as a disease, but is said to be a device oi Engai to kill the 
people who eat the meat and it is called Kitumuka and a beast 
dying like this is called Ndulo. 

^ This practice is evidently the survival of a ceremony connected with the 
propitiation of the river spirits, whether these were believed to be ancestral, like 
the Aiiniu is now difficult to discover. Vide Tylor's Primitive Culture^ Vol. n. 210. 



Abortion is known among this tribe. It is sometimes prac- 
tised by young unmarried girls who find themselves pregnant. 
They drink a cupful of hot butter which is said to produce the 
desired effect; a person who does this is called Ekuvuna. 

Thin strings will sometimes be seen fastened across the 
villages about ten feet above ground. They say this is done to 
frighten away kites and other birds of prey which seize young 

Ceremony connected with the foundation of a village 
and the building of a hut. 

When a new village is founded a medicine man is generally 
consulted and he casts his magic stones to find out if the site is 
a lucky one ; a goat is then killed and the rough outline of the 
village is walked over by the medicine man who sprinkles it with 
the blood of the goat and the contents of the stomach. The first 
proceeding is to build the boma or fence of branches which form 
the defences of the village, the head of the village and his family 
then camp in the open space inside the boma for several nights 
before they commence to build the huts, and they sleep under 
flimsy shelters of boughs and grass; on the second night and the 
fourth night of this preliminary occupation, the head of the 
village must cohabit with his wife. During this period of 
probation they are cutting poles and grass for their huts, and 
at its conclusion they commence to build them. 

The head of the village builds his house first and some 
curious ceremonial details have to be observed. The day the 
house is built, the poles and the framework are erected and it is 
not properly thatched, but a little grass is laid on the roof and 
in the evening after sunset the wife will light a fire and cook a 
little porridge (Ngima) in the house; she will first smear a little 
on the poles that support the erection, and then the husband and 
wife will each eat a little, and after them all the children will eat 
a little, a little will then be thrown on to the floor for the Aiimu 
or spirits. If the food cooked is porridge, four small pieces are 
thrown down for the Aiimu, if the meal is meat seven small 
pieces will be thrown out. The husband's arms, viz. his bow 



and arrows and the leather satchel which he carries on a journey, 
must be hung up on one of the poles in the house. On the 
second night of the occupation of the house the husband must 
cohabit with his wife, but not until the second night. 

The A-Kamba of Ulu have a story that coins were formerly 
found in their country when digging their fields, and when the 
first pice and rupees appeared from Mombasa the old people 
said they reminded them of the objects which used to be occa- 
sionally turned up in the soil. The old coins were never kept 
by the finders as they had an idea that they would bring bad 
luck with perhaps fatal results. 



During parturition the mother is held in a squatting position, 
one woman holds the mother and another receives the child. The 
umbilical cord and the placenta are buried just outside the hut 
by the nurse. 4 

After the birth the brothers and sisters of the parents of the 
newly born child assemble and the men drink Tetnbo or native 
beer ( Uki) and the women eat porridge {Ngima) and goats are 
killed or, in the case of a chief, maybe an ox is slaughtered; one 
side of the beast is given to the men and the other side to the 
women. Then they chant a prayer to God to the effect that the 
mother of the child will bear more children. I 

The beer brewed for the festivities in connection with a birth 
is made by the people of the village the very day the child is 
born, and usually of sugar cane ; the word Ndingi is often used 
for beer. On the second day the neighbouring elders come 
and drink this, on the third day a necklet of chain is fastened 
round the child's neck, this is called Ithaa and the old women of 
the village usually name the child, choosing the name of an 
ancestor ; a feast is given on this occasion by the father of the 
child, and the people of the village dance. On that night the 
husband cohabits ceremonially with his wife and during the rite 
the baby is placed on the woman's breast between the husband 
and wife ; if the child however dies in infancy, this ceremony is 
omitted in the case of succeeding children. Until the first 
menstruation of the woman after the birth of the child, the 
infant is always placed between husband and wife upon the 
occasion of cohabitation, after this appears it is placed behind 
the shoulder. All this is however merely ceremonial for if a 
woman walks about the child is carried on the back in the 
usual way. If the ceremonial just described is omitted, the 
child is said to refuse to suckle and to die. 

Plate VIII 

(i6) Kamba chief — Mukeku of Mwala. 




^^^K^. V , A^i 







H? /'■* 




[bHm' ^ i^l^^l 




(17) Mukeku of Mwala. 


If a woman commits adultery before her first menstruation 
after the birth of a child, the child will surely die. 

If a child is born feet first it is considered most unlucky, and 
a boy so born cannot get a wife or a girl so born a husband. 
At the circumcision ceremony such a person is operated on 
separately, and is kept separate at the subsequent initiation 
ceremonies. The idea exists that no child of a person who was 
born feet first will be born alive. 

Both father and mother spit on a new-born baby to bring it 
luck, a friend seeing the baby will do likewise. It is said that 
the custom of spitting at people for luck was general, but since 
the arrival of Europeans they spit in their hands instead, even 
this modified custom is not at all general. The custom may 
possibly have been imported from the Masai. 

The mother is obliged to stay in her hut with the infant for 
a period of twenty days and every day her body is massaged 
with hot water; when she emerges from her hut her husband 
kills a goat to celebrate the event. A pregnant woman never 
cohabits with her husband during the last six months of her 

If twins are born two goats are killed. The birth of twins is 
not now-a-days considered as being of either good or bad omen, 
but it is said that a long time ago, if a woman bore twins of 
opposite sexes the female child was always buried. 

The child is named about three days after birth by the old 
women of the village and they generally choose the name of one 
of their ancestors ; a feast is given on this occasion by the father 
of the child and the people of the village dance. 

A pregnant woman is not allowed to eat ghee or fat, as the 
eating of same is supposed to bring about a miscarriage. 

The beans called Maharagwe are also not allowed to be eaten 
by a person in this condition as they are said to make the stomach 
swell and cause pain. 

Honey is not allowed as it is believed to retard the day of 
birth and the woman will have a very severe confinement as the 
child is supposed to derive great nourishment from the honey, 
and become so large that a successful confinement is almost 



'f a young man sees a girl he fancies he will talk to her now 
and again, and eventually tell her he wants to marry her. If she 
acquiesces his father goes to her father and asks him if he agrees 
and if he does then the youth's father returns with a present of 
two goats ; this ratifies the bargain. Four days later the young 
man's father again visits the girl's father and takes a present of I 
four goats and some native beer and this time they agree about 
the price to be paid for the bride. The richer the bridegroom the 
more he will pay: a chief will pay icx) goats or more whereas a 
poor man would only pay 40 goats or even less for the same girl. 
Chiefs like to marry their daughters to poor men for if their 
sons-in-law are poor they can call upon them to work for 
them. If a son-in-law of a chief refused to work for his father- 
in-law the latter would call his daughter back to his village, and 
the husband being a poor man, with probably only one wife, 
would then have no one to work for him and would soon go and 
make terms with his father-in-law. \ 

The marriage price is paid by instalments and the girl is | 
married before the payments are complete. j 

In former days on the day of the marriage the bridegroom ^ 
went with five or six brothers and friends and seized his pro- 
spective bride in the fields near the village, the girl would call || 
out and her brothers would assemble and attack the bridegroom's 
party; they would fight with sticks and even swords and if the 
girl's brothers won they would take their sister back to their 

A palaver would then take place between the two families 


and the girl's father would demand more dowry, the suitor would 
then pay up perhaps another ten goats and the second time the 
bridegroom would go alone to his father-in-law's village and 
would receive his bride without any trouble and take her to his 
father's village. Newly married couples live at first in a hut 
belonging to the husband's father, but after the birth of their first 
child the husband builds a separate hut for his wife in his father's 

The details of the marriage ceremonies are as follows : 

The man first sends two she goats to father of girl — Mbuiya 

Then three days after sends four she goats — Kuatia. 

Then seven days after sends six goats — Ktipikila. 

Then as soon as the stuff can be collected sends 20 to 40 
goats — no particular name. 

These completed the father says that he now wants cattle — 
two cows and one bull. 

These being delivered he demands some tenibo — three gourds 
are sent. 

The father then calls his brothers and male relations to drink 
the tembo and announces the proposed marriage to them — 
Netaka Kti nengani mzveitu. 

About three days after the marriage takes place the mother 
receives 14 bunches of bananas and one male sheep and one big 
male goat, the skin of which is used to make her a garment; and 
one big gourd of gruel ( Ushu) and one gourd of ghee and one 
gourd of honey and two baskets of mbaazi and two of mawele 
and also wimbi. 

The bridegroom then kills a bullock and splits it into halves, 
and gives half to the mother and he and his friends eat the other 
half; also gives some cloth. He then prepares a pot of tembo 
and gets an old man to accompany him and they go off to the 
village of the girl; the bridegroom does not speak, but the old 
man acts as spokesman. 

He then leaves and the girl follows ; he keeps looking back to 
see if she follows and when he gets to the gate of the village he 
takes hold of her and leads her off. 

The following day the girls of the village and her clan go off 



to his village first thing in the morning — Ta-Kwenda Ku-ia, we , 
go to wail. " 

They cry all day and sleep that night in the bridegroom's 
hut. They sleep there three days ; on the fourth day they return 
and the bridegroom gives them each a present of beads ; they will 
not leave him alone with his wife until he has paid them to go. 
The sister of the bride is also given a goat. The bride is then 

called Mundu Muka and is considered a regular married 

woman. t 

Sometimes a young man and girl agree to elope. If the 
father does not approve the girl has to return to her father. ^ 

There is a widespread custom which appears among the 
Masai and other East African tribes and is also recorded as 
occurring in Arabia, namely that of providing a temporary wife 
to a guest possessing blood ties with the host. This custom also 
prevails among the A-Kamba. If a man visits a friend belonging 
to the same Mbaya or clan he is given a temporary wife during 
his stay, the wife however must of course be of a different clan, 
e.g. if a Mweombi man visits another Mweombi he will be given 
one of the wives of his host, who will, say, be of the Mutangwa 
clan. Sometimes a very intimate friend not belonging to the 
same clan may also receive this honour while on a visit, but it is 
a rare occurrence. 

There is another point which needs attention in order to 
obtain a clear idea of the A-Kamba marriage laws. As detailed 
in another part of this paper, there are two classes of clans, viz. 
original clans and sub-divisions of those clans. 

For instance : 

original clan sub-divisions 

Mu Tui. Mu Sii. 

Mu Mui. 

Now originally members of these sub-divisions were not 
allowed to marry but curiously enough they could marry back 
into the original stock, thus: a Mu Sii could not marry a Mu Mui 
but either could marry a Mu Tui. 

This custom is, however, not rigorously enforced now-a-days, 
for they say that the numbers of each clan are now becoming so 


great that the inter-marriage referred to is no longer regarded as 
a serious matter. 

It is difficult to understand the logic of this reasoning but 
such was their explanation. 

The A-Kamba are allowed to marry more than one wife from 
one clan or one sub-division of a clan, but they may not marry 
two sisters as is the custom in Kavirondo for instance. 


A girl's first menstruation is a very critical period of her life 
according to A-Kamba beliefs. If this condition appears when 
she is away from the village, say at work in the fields, she returns 
at once to her village, but is careful to walk through the grass 
and not on a path, for if she followed a path and a stranger 
accidentally trod on a spot of blood and then cohabited with a 
member of the opposite sex before the girl was better again it is 
believed that she would never bear a child. 

As above mentioned, she returns at once to her home and 
tells her mother, she is kept at home until her period is finished 
and can only be fed by her mother. The mother tells her 
husband, and when the girl's period is finished the husband 
must cohabit with the mother of the girl, or the girl will be 
doomed to permanent sterility. 

According to the Kamba custom, when a married woman 
menstruates, the husband cohabits with her that night, the idea 
being that she will probably conceive. 




The bodies of peasants and women are dragged out into the 
bush after death and left there for the hyaenas to devour. 

Chiefs, however, are buried in a deep grave : the grave of a 
small chief is circular and the grave of a big chief is oblong. 
The corpse is laid in the grave on its right side and the right 
hand is placed under the head, the body is extended at full 
length and is buried so that the head points about south-west. 
Chiefs are buried in their villages — they are buried nude, no 
arms, clothes, or cooking utensils are placed in the grave, the 
corpse is simply covered with earth and then two or three big 
boulders are placed over the spot. 

They never cultivate on the site of a grave and the plants 
that spring up on it are never cut. At the end of each harvest 
the people of the district take food of different kinds and pile it 
on the grave ; they also kill a goat there and leave the meat on 
the graved 

They believe that it is necessary to make this offering before 
eating any of the newly gathered crop. 

If anyone cut down the trees which spring up on the site of a 
chief's grave he would be accursed and would die. 

When anyone dies the relations of the deceased wail for 
about 20 days at intervals during each day, the other people of 
the village only wail for one day. 

If a man dies in a hut the hut is still used, but if a wife dies 
in a hut it is deserted and the posts that support the roof are cut 
and the building is allowed to gradually collapse and become a 

1 The procedure is as follows : the villagers assemble near the grave and dance, 
at a certain stage in the proceedings a very old man and a very old woman leave and 
go to the grave, offer up prayers and then make the offerings above mentioned and the 
rest of the people watch the proceedings from a little distance. When the ceremony 
is over the old couple order everyone to leave the place at once. 



Plate IX 

(i8) Kamba dandies — Ulu district. 

(19) Kamba dandy — Ulu district. 


ruin, if it is far enough from other houses it is burnt. Such a 
hut is called Mbia. The point of the custom is this, the women 
thatch the huts and when a hut is built the husband builds it but 
the wife thatches it, and they say it is when the woman dies who 
thatched the hut when it was built that is the occasion of its being 
abandoned. If the woman had moved away to another part of 
the country and died no notice would probably be taken. 

A man does not cut his hair for about seven days after the 
death of a wife, a brother or a child ; in some parts the hair is worn 
long for two months after a death. The elders then come and 
make medicine in which the Ngnondu (Solanum fruit) plays an 
important part. The mourner has to kill a goat upon this 

As mentioned above when an ordinary person dies it is 
customary for the relations to throw the body out in the open, 
and if another relation were to die some time afterwards the 
same thing would be done, but if a second relation were to die 
very shortly after the first the second would be buried as it 
would be considered that the second had died as it had been 
unlucky to throw out the first. If a third relation were to die 
shortly he would also be buried, but a fourth relation dying 
shortly would be thrown out and they would go on ringing the 
changes till the deaths stopped. 

For two days after the death of a person the men of the 
village are not allowed to cohabit with their wives. On the 
third day the father of the deceased cohabits with the mother of 
the deceased and then both father and mother shave their heads, 
and the people of the village rub their feet in the contents of 
a goat's stomach, which is a purification ceremony. After this 
the remainder of the village may resume their normal sexual 
relationships and things go on as before. 

When a person is dead the women and children of the village 
wail each in their own houses for 3 or 4 hours and no one eats 
for one day. After this every one eats as usual. 

If a child dies who has not had the middle incisor in its lower 
jaw knocked out, this tooth is knocked out after death ; this is 
considered very important, for if omitted someone is said to 
surely die in the village soon afterwards. 




no! 11 

Both sexes undergo this rite ; no reason is however assigned 
for the custom and its origin is unknown; no uncircumcised man 
or woman could marry. 

The rite is called Mwaiikwa or NzaikOy and in Ulu district 
there are two stages, viz. : 

Nzaikonini or Nzaikwenini — the small ceremony. 

Nzaikoneni — the big ceremony. 

In Kitui, Mumoni and Kibwezi districts there is an additional 
ceremony purely initiative in character, it is a very secret affair 
and is usually referred to as Mbaba?ii. 

A child is circumcised when about four or five years of age 
and when the pubes appear, say at about 12 years, a second tiny 
operation is performed but the second ceremony is merely one 
of initiation. These ceremonies take place after the harvest is 
completed: at the beginning of the next new moon after the 
harvest the Nzaikonini takes place and at the end of that moon 
the Nzaikoneni is carried out; they are usually during the month 
called Mubiti. 

The general procedure is as follows : 

A leading elder who has a son who has about reached the 
age at which the operation is performed tells his friends in the 
neighbourhood that he proposes to hold the ceremony Nzaiko- 
nini, and the fathers of all the children who are ready to be 
operated on assemble at the elder's village, each boy's father 
bringing a contribution of beer or a goat for the feast. 

The operator for the boys is called Mwaiki and he is the 
man who files or rather chips their teeth; an old woman operates 



on the girls, only women being present. The elder who assembled 
the people will give the operator a goat. The ceremony takes 
place very early in the morning. 

After the operation the patients are fed on milk, porridge 
and gruel, and in about ten days they are usually well again. 

Two days after the Nzaikonini the father of a circumcised 
child is obliged to cohabit with the mother; if this is omitted he 
cannot go and drink beer at the Nzaiko feast and the child's 
wound will not readily heal. The patients eat the root of a 
bush called Undu and the crushed root of a reed called Kithanzi 
is applied to the wound as a dressing. 

During the operation of Nzaikonini, if the patient being 
operated on micturates on the knife it is considered a most 
serious occurrence, he or she is called Mundu wa wenzi or 
Mundu wa mwa, and henceforth becomes more or less a social 
outcast or Uthuku as the A-Kamba call it (a forbidden or 
unclean thing). The stigma will remain right through life and 
the person will never be able to marry in the tribe. Such a 
person can attend the Nzaikoneni ceremony but is kept apart all 
through the proceedings and is not allowed to associate with the 
other youths. 


This is a much bigger affair than the Nzaikojtini and as 
many as several hundred youths may attend it with their 
parents. Great preparations are made beforehand for the 
ceremonies which continue several days. The parents of young 
people taking part in it bring beer, ghee, goats and even bullocks 
for the feast, each according to his means. 

The boys and girls are placed in huts in separate enclosures 
and food is brought to them daily by their parents and they stay 
there for about four days. 

Small ceremonial huts are built on the thonii clearing outside 
the village and certain of the elders make medicine there. 

This ceremony is mainly of an initiatory character. A tiny 
ceremonial incision is made at the base of the glans of each 

The young people are divided up into batches of 10 or 15 


with a fully initiated youth or girl in charge of each batch 
according to their sex; these tutors are called Mubwiki and it is ■ 
their duty to teach their pupils their duties in life. ^ 

These Mubwiki are chosen beforehand by the elders who 
have children to take part in the ceremony. 

Each day of the gathering various ceremonies take place, the 
principal of these are as follows : 

1. The young men are taken into the woods, each section 
by its Mubwiki. They take with them miniature bows and they 
are told to hunt a certain lizard called Telembo\ each youth has 
to shoot one, bring it back impaled on an arrow and shew it to 
the elders ; after this each youth throws his lizard on to the 
thatched roof of the Nzaiko hut. This ceremony is supposed 
to be medicine to make them good shots either at game or 
in war. 

After this they go by the name of Wa-Singi. On their way 
back from the lizard hunt, if they meet anyone they must all 
hide in the bush, and they are also not allowed to speak to 
anyone until they reach the elders who are awaiting them in 
front of the Nzaiko hut. 

The girls do not hunt but they are taken off by their 
Mubwiki and go and collect firewood in the woods. On their 
way back, if they meet anyone they hide in the same way as 
the boys. All ornaments are doffed by both the boys and girls 
before the ceremony; the girls' bead aprons are discarded and 
replaced by a piece of goatskin. ■ 

2. Two days after the lizard hunt the youths are taken out 
for a sham cattle raid; some cattle from the village herd are 
driven into the grass near by, and the youths, led by the 
Mubwiki^ making a detour creep up through the grass towards 
the cattle ; an elder standing near by suddenly espies the band 
and calls out to the herdsmen, " Look out, the Masai are coming 
to attack you"; the young men then spring up, surround the 
cattle and bombard the herdsmen with pieces of dry cow dung 
which are supposed to represent arrows, and the herdsmen reply 
and pelt the party with the Solanum fruit called Ngnondu with 
which they have provided themselves beforehand. The behaviour 
of the young men is carefully watched by the elders and the 



Mubwiki, and one who shrinks from a blow from one of these 
missiles is dubbed Wea (a coward). 

3. The Mubwiki then go into the woods, 
each alone, and cut sticks from a tree called 
Mthiwa ; these sticks are called Musai. 

The boys are then called up one by one 
and the Mubwiki cuts on the stick what may 
be termed riddles in picture writing and the 
pupil has to guess these one after the other. 
They are called Ndeto or riddles. 

These riddles are conventional represen- 
tations of common objects. 

Thus, a portion of a circle will mean the 
rising sun. 

Thus, a tortuous line may represent either 
a snake or a Mu-Kamba path. 

Thus, a thick line with a number of tiny 
cuts on each side of it will represent a mille- 
pede {Ngongo). 

Thus, a number of irregularly placed dots 
will represent the midnight sky covered with 

Thus, another carving will probably repre- 
sent the grindstone used for making flour, the 
big lower slab and the round rubbing stone. 

A Musai stick was made specially for me 
by one of the chiefs and the pictographs on 
it are as follows ; they commence at the top 
of the stick and are carved one after the 
other along the stick : 

No. I. A star Ndata. 

„ 2. Moon Mwei. 

„ 3. Arrow Michi. 

„ 4. Black, red-legged millepede Ngongo. 
„ 5. Python Itaa. 

The dots in the design are said to Musai stick. 
represent the spots on the reptile's skin. 
„ 6. Spider MbuibuL 



No. 7. Tortoise Ngu, 

„ 8. Lizard Mwilo, 

„ 9. Wooden jar for carrying honey Kithenibo. 

It is quite possible that the animals carved on the stick were 
originally all totems of the tribe : the Ngu or tortoise is still 
looked upon with some veneration and may never be eaten. 

Fathers teach their sons a number of these problems before 
they go to the Nzaiko festival, for if a youth is stupid and 
cannot solve the riddles the father is ridiculed and has to pay a 
fine of some beer which is drunk by the elders. 

If, when a Mubwiki is appointed he is not well versed in 
these riddles, he pays some cloth to one who is and he goes off 
alone into the woods with his preceptor and practises carving a 
variety of problems. 

The girls also have to pass an examination in the deciphering 
of the Musai picture riddles, and before the girls leave the Nzaiko 
gathering a small piece of a Musai stick is cut off and tied round 
the neck of each girl, and attached to each end of this piece of 
stick is one of the locally made iron beads from a Kimengo or 
married woman's apron. (The beads on a Kimengo are of two 
kinds, the iron beads along the upper edge called Ndutnunya in 
Ulu and Ndunya in Mumoni and the brass beads called 

Only the Ndumunya or Ndunya beads are fixed to the Musai 
chain which is presented to each of the initiated girls. The girls 
go home with this and wear it for four or five days ; they then 
return to the Nzaiko village and have it taken off by the old 
lady who was mistress of the ceremonies and it is then thrown 
away. This is gone through from Ulu to Mumoni. 

4. On another day one of the Mubwiki will get up very 
early and go off by himself to a Mumbo tree he knows (the 
Mumbo is one of the varieties of wild fig tree) ; he beats the tree 
with the back of a native axe and collects some of the white 
juice in an Njeli (half calabash); he then drives an iron nail 
called Ndumunya into the trunk and it is said that this will stop 
the flow of the sap. 

The other Mubwiki will then go to the tree later in the day 
and fail to obtain any of this juice or sap. The spell of this nail 




is said to be so potent as to also seal up the sap in all the other 
Mumbo trees in the vicinity. 

Now before the initiated youths can return to their homes it 
is necessary for each one to eat a little of this sap which is 
administered to them in the bush by the Mtibiviki^ each Mubwiki 
to his section. So here we have one Mubwiki with a supply of 
sap and all the other sap in the neighbourhood sealed up by 
magic, and great excitement ensues which is eventually settled 
by each of the Mubwiki paying the " early bird " a few rupees 
or a goat for a share of the precious Mumbo sap. 

Each of the Mu-Singi is then given a little to eat and then 
some black goats are taken, a little cut is made in the ear of 
each and a spot of the blood is rubbed on the forehead of each 
Mu-Singi. This is done in the village in front of the Nzaiko hut 
and by each boy's father. These points are considered of great 
importance as until they are carried out no youth can enter his 
father's house. 

Each boy then goes home and upon arriving at the village 
he is formally offered some food which he refuses; the father 
then offers him a female goat; he refuses this and the father 
then offers him a cow which he accepts. If however the father 
was poor the goat would probably be accepted, or a poor man 
will sometimes give his son a field of sugar cane. 

This present is called Kulu Kilwa and the boy would refuse 
to eat food until he had received it. The cow is however not 
altogether the property of the young man, for when it calves he 
only retains the first calf and returns the cow to his father. 

About a week before any of the circumcision ceremonies the 
boys who are to take part in them plaster their heads with red 
earth and oil. 

The dances which take place at these ceremonies are called 
Wathi and only young people participate in them. 

During the whole of the Nzaikoneni the Wa-Singi have to 
take particular care not to touch each others heads or their hair 
falls of, so they cover their heads with a cloth or skin. 

In Mumoni district the proceedings vary a little. As the 
candidates arrive they are met by an elder who gives each 
one a sip of native beer and then ushers them into a hut : an old 

74 ^^v CIRCUMCISION ^mmpfifumn 

woman receives the girls and an old man the boys. Now this 
hut is specially arranged for the purpose: it has a back door 
which is opened in the wall of the hut just before the ceremony 
(all other huts have only one door). This back door opens on to a 
new gate in the kraal fence and outside the village leading from 
this new gate a freshly-hoed and swept road leads away towards 
the woods. Upon entering the hut each candidate is forcibly 
seized by one of an aged couple who are seated in the hut and 
is eventually thrust through the back door and told to proceed 
into the woods along the newly cut road. A boy has to go and 
shoot Telembo or Mwilu, lizards (or Telengu as they are called in 
Mumoni district), Kitole, locusts (Mumoni dialect, Imbandi), or 
certain small birds, Nyuni\ a girl only has to collect firewood. 
When they return to the village they must re-enter by the new 
gate and door, and this gate and door are then fastened up and 
not used again, and that night the head of the village where the 
ceremony takes place must cohabit with his principal wife. 

1. The young people stay in the hut for eight days and are 
lectured daily; the girls learn basket-making and the boys are 
taught to make bows and arrows ; the girls sleep on one side of 
the hut and the boys on the other. The Mubwiki or tutors are 
responsible for the behaviour of the candidates. If a candidate 
leaves the hut for purposes of nature he cannot go alone but is 
taken into the woods by his Mubwiki and he always has to pass 
along the new road. 

2. It is thought that the new door and newly cut road just 
referred to are probably symbolical of the new era in the life of 
each candidate which is being entered on. The confirmation 
ceremony of the Christian church is in all probability an adopted 
relic of the initiation ceremonies handed down from ancient 


As previously mentioned, in Kitui, Mumoni and Kibwezi 
districts there is a third Nzaiko which is of an initiatory nature 
and which takes place with great secrecy in the bush some two 
months after the Nzaikoneni. It is only attended by males and 
the youths are told that if they ever divulge any information about 



the proceedings they will die. In consequence it was only with the 
greatest difficulty that any particulars about it could be obtained 
and it is very possible that there may be more details still to be 
learnt. In Kitui district it is said that the proceedings are as 
follows : the candidates assemble at a given spot in the woods 
with a number of their elders and at nightfall they are all placed 
in a group by themselves in the thick bush, no fires are allowed 
and they are ordered upon pain of their lives not to move or 
look about them. A period of waiting ensues and then suddenly 
a weird booming roar is heard which continues at intervals 
throughout the night and the youths sit and shudder with fright, 
the old men call out "The Mbabani has come! Oh spare my 
son ! " and so on and make loud noises as if to drive away the 
fearsome beast. The roaring noise is said to be caused by a 
man blowing down a hollow stick about six feet long, the end of 
which is inserted into a large water pot which contains a little 
water. Next day a goat is killed and divided among the boys : 
it is called Ngima ya Mbabarii. This ceremony is repeated for 
three nights. On the third night one of the elders provides an 
ox and this is killed at some distance from the encampment, the 
meat is cut up into small lumps which are threaded on to long 
sticks and in the morning the youths are informed that the 
Mbabani has been killed and that this is the meat; each youth 
is told to take a piece and cook and eat it. The elders sprinkle 
each youth with ashes and they then get up and rush off in a 
body to another place in the woods, where they stay secluded for 
a period of five days and one elder accompanies them. While 
there the elder cuts each young man a couple of long sticks which 
they carry like spears, and called Ngai. Their term of probation 
being finished, they roll their loincloths into a rope, and tie them 
round their waists and start off in a body for the villages ; if 
they meet anyone en route they are not allowed to speak or 
look up, but they silently stop and surround him, and one of the 
youths makes a sign in the sand, thus f , and if the person under- 
stands he will make a mark across this sign, thus ^, and he will 
then be allowed to pass on: failing this they will all beat him 
severely with their wands and if he is so seriously injured by the 
beating as to die no questions can be asked and no compensation 


is paid. They search for some ashes and smear themselves all 
over and before they reach their homes they go and bathe and 
then throw away their wands. ^ 

Upon reaching home they shave their heads and each youth 
pays the elders a few rupees, or some brass wire, and the total 
amount thus received is given to the owner of the bullock which 
was killed. 

While going through their probation in the woods they only 
eat beans and Indian corn, they are not allowed Mbaazi (pigeon 
peas) or meal of any kind; their food is brought ready cooked 
from the villages by the elder who cuts the Ngai wands; any 
food left over must not return to the village but is thrown away. 

Each youth, shortly after his return home, goes away into the 
woods and collects some honey, makes beer with it and presents 
it to the elder who took him to the Mbabani ceremony, and 
who he thinks helped to save him from being devoured by the 

The Mbabaiii ceremony in the Kibwezi district is probably 
similar to that of Kitui but it has not been possible to obtain a 
specific account of it. ig 

In Mumoni it is said that a ceremony called Choo Munmbay 
which corresponded to it, was performed up to a few years ago 
but died out with the death of an elder named Kioko, who was 
the last of the older generation of elders, who were skilled in the 
ritual, etc., connected with it. 

In Mumoni there are many wide sandy watercourses practically 
dry during the greater part of the year, but during the big rains 
they become running rivers of considerable size, and it is said that, 
at this season, an aquatic animal comes up these streams out of 
the Tana river; it is said to be whitish in colour and about the 
size of a cow, they scouted the idea of it being a hippo or 
crocodile. Certain persons are said to have known the way to 
catch these beasts and one was caught every year and led through 
the country at night secured with ropes. Men went ahead of the 
procession beating pieces of wood together to warn the people 
to hide as it came along, as no one but what may be termed the 
priests of the cult could be present. The candidates for initiation 
were assembled, seated in a circle, at a certain prearranged place 

Plate X 

(20) A-Kamba young men, Anake — Ulu district. 

(21) A-Kamba young women — Ulu district. 


on the sandy banks of one of the rivers, and the beast came 
along bellowing loudly and entered the circle, and the youths 
were warned that directly it approached they were to bend their 
heads down to the ground and throw sand over themselves as 
hard as they could so that the monster would not be able to see 
them, otherwise it would kill them. The beast stood in the 
circle bellowing and plunging about, but being secured by ropes 
could not harm the boys, and it then spurted out quantities of 
saliva over each of the candidates and was eventually taken 
away. If an unauthorised person wished to attend the ceremony 
he could however do so upon payment of a bullock to the elders 
who conducted the ceremony. Of course there is no doubt that 
this beast was of the nature of an animal one is accustomed to 
see on the pantomime stage, a couple of men covered with skins 
or something of the sort, but somewhere far back in the mists of 
time may have had some connection with the legends of the. 
dtigong or manatee. 

These Mbabani ceremonies are of great interest and are 
probably the most ancient ceremonies preserved by the tribe. 
In many ways they remind one forcibly of some of the initiation 
ceremonies of Australia so ably described by Spencer and Gillen 
and great efforts should be made by European investigators to 
witness some of them and carefully record the proceedings. 



Criminal Law. 

Serious theft is tried by the accused person going througi 
the Kithito ceremony — the supposed thief is ordered to tap 
the magic horn with a piece of stick and swear that he is 
innocent ; if he refuses to undergo the ordeal it is known he is 
guilty and if he was guilty and swore on the Kithito that he was 
innocent he would surely die and his children will also die, but 
it is possible for the children to get an antidote from a medicine 
man. They formerly hanged habitual thieves. Once the thief 
is detected he pays the amount of his theft, but no fine is levied 
for the offence. 

Murder. The murder of a man in Ulu is compensated for" 
by the payment of 12 cattle (11 cows and one bull); in Kitui by 
the payment of 14 head (13 cows and one bull). 

The murder of a woman is compensated by the payment of 
four to five cows and one bull, in Ulu and in Kitui by the pay- 
ment of eight head (seven cows and one bull). ^fl 

Rape is punished by a fine of a big goat. The goat is killed 
and eaten by the elders and the skin is given to the girl. The 
elders then order the man to pay up another goat which is 
called Mtonyi Ngnondu. This is killed by stifling and the girl is ,^^ 
smeared all over with the contents of the stomach of the animal|| 
by an old woman. This operation is supposed to purify the 
girl. The elders eat the meat and the girl is given the skin of 
the goat. If the man does not pay as prescribed the brother of 
the girl will attack him and try to kill him. If the girl conceives 
the man has to pay three goats which are killed and eaten, and. 



the child belongs to its mother. If, as sometimes happens in 
these cases, the mother and child die in childbirth, the man has 
to pay four cows and one ox to the father of the girl. In the 
event of a man being unable to pay, his brother or his clan 
would meet the liability to avoid strife. 

Unnatural offences are unknown between men but occasionally 
with women, they are punishable by a fine of one ox which is 
killed and the woman is purified by being rubbed over with the 
contents of the animal's stomach. 

Cowardice is called Wiwea or Ngmiguu. A coward is punished 
by not receiving any portion of the loot captured in the fight. 

Assault The damages are assessed according to the injury 
and also it is believed according to the paying capabilities of 
the accused. 

The nominal damages in various cases are : — 
For loss of one finger = i bull and i goat or some- 

times even a cow 
„ „ two fingers = i bull and 3 goats 

In case of a hand damaged beyond 

use = I cow 

For the loss of an arm = 5 cows and i bull 

„ „ „ both arms =10 cows and i bull 

„ „ „ one leg = 5 cows and i bull 

„ „ „ both legs =10 cows and i bull 

For damage to the head = i goat 

For accidental death =10 cows and I bull 

If a person from another part of the country is caught in a 
cattle homa by night he may be killed without compensation 
being paid. 

Kidnapping is not considered a punishable offence but the 
child must be returned. 

Adultery is punished by a fine of a bull and a goat, in some 
cases only the latter, the goat is killed and the contents of the 
stomach are smeared on the ground at the door of the house 
occupied by the offending wife, the husband rubs his feet in this 
and formally enters the house and this ceremony purges the 
offence and normal relations are resumed between the couple. 

If an adulterous wife dies in child-birth the paramour has to 



pay a fine of five cows and one bull as the responsibility for her^^, 
death is considered to lie with the offending man. fl|i 

The abduction of a wife is compensated for by the guilty 
party paying over to the husband the amount of livestock he 
paid for the woman. ^1 

A case recently occurred in Kitui where the headman of 
a village had been carrying on a liaison with a young unmarried 
woman and she was taken ill and died while on a visit to his 
village. The matter of compensation was discussed at great 
length by a court of elders, and some held that the headman 
referred to should pay the father of the girl the damages due in 
case of a murder, but eventually the majority decided that the 
father's claim should be assessed on the basis of the marriage 
value of the girl. 

Arson or the malicious burning of a house. The guilty person 
has to build a new house and make good any property lost in _ 
the fire. 11 

Flogging or imprisonment is never resorted to as a punish 
ment among the tribe. ■ 

In the old days an habitually obstinate and disobedient wife 
was sometimes hanged. 



A tribal method of punishment. 

It occasionally happens that a clan of the A-Kamba will 
come to the conclusion that a certain man is a thoroughly bad 
character and deserves public punishment, and it is then decided 
to punish him as follows : — J| 

During the night his village is surrounded by a party of 
men, all of his clan, and a guard is placed on the door of his hut 
while others seize one of his oxen and slay it. If the offence is 
very serious, even a cow or more than one may be killed. If 
there are no cattle the party will kill a number of sheep andll 
goats. The culprit is then dragged forth from his hut and 
beaten with fists, clubs, and anything handy and thrown down 
and trampled on. His wives will also be brought out and 
slapped and scratched ; the children are not harmed, .. 

A case recently came before one of the District Officials 
where a man married two wives and without any reason drove 


them away. They returned to their parents and one was 
eventually married to someone else and after a time the other 
returned to him. The clan considered this to be very unseemly 
conduct and warned him. Later on he became a confirmed 
drunkard and what was worse, when drunk was very violent and 
beat his neighbours. This conduct became more or less a public 
nuisance so the clan descended on him and helped themselves to 
a fine ox, and then gave him a sound thrashing, but not so severe 
as to endanger his life. This man belonged to the Eombi clan 
who are not very extreme in their methods. Some clans are 
said to be very severe, the Ewani, for instance, it is said generally 
beat the victim to the point of death. 

Civil Laws. 

Debts. The lender makes repeated applications for payment 
and if the debtor does not pay, the lender complains to the 
elders and they go to the debtor and threaten him with the 
Kithito ordeal, because they say that the power of the Kithito is 
not afraid of the government. 

In former times the lender would go at night to the village 
of the debtor, open the cattle kraal and take property equal to 
his debt. If he thought he would not be able to get into the 
kraal undisturbed, he would arrange with a friend at some 
distance and give him a fee to call the debtor to some imaginary 
palaver and while he was away seize the amount of his debt. 


Ordeals by fire. A sime or native sword is heated on a fire 
until it is red hot. First the medicine man who is administering 
the ordeal licks the red hot iron and then the suspected person, 
and if he is guilty he either refuses the ordeal or severely burns 
his tongue. 

The water ordeal sometimes used to detect thieves. A gourd 
is partly filled with water and held by the medicine man who 
points the mouth of the vessel at the suspected persons who 
stand up in a row. He addresses each one in turn and says: If 
A has stolen this thing may the water come out, and so on to 

H. 6 



each of the accused, and when he comes to the guilty party the 
water spurts out and sprinkles him. ^ 

Another ordeal is performed with a small trade bead\ The 
medicine man presses the bead into the corner of the eye near 
the tear duct and if the accused is innocent the bead falls to the 
ground, but if he is guilty the bead slips inside the eyelid. 

My informant described how a short time ago he and some 
other elders were visiting a village when one of their number 
lost a favourite snufif bottle. This had been stolen by a boy 
who hid it in his mother's house. The youths of the village 
being suspected they were collected and one by one subjected 
to this ordeal ; the guilty one was quickly discovered and the 
stolen article recovered. 



When a man dies his brothers take the wives of the deceased 
and divide them. 

The property of a man who dies is divided among the sons, 
the eldest takes the biggest share, the daughters get none of the 
estate but are supported by their eldest uncle. a| 

If the sons of the deceased are small their eldest uncle acts 
as trustee for their property. During the last few years the 
grown up sons have taken over the younger wives of their father 
after his death. Formerly this was looked upon as a heinous 
crime punishable by Kingnoli. 

Land tenure. 

Every man owns his own shamba or cultivated field. 

He breaks up the ground first of all and then divides it up 
among his wives who have to plant it — each wife reaps her 
portion and stores the produce thereof in her own hut. 

If a man has not enough land for his requirements and can- 
not break up unoccupied land he will buy a shamba from a 
neighbour. It is thus clear that individual title to land is 
recognized in the tribe. 

1 Curiously enough this ordeal is also found occurring in Western Congoland 
among the Bateke, etc., vide George Grenfell and the Congo, Johnston, Vol. ii. 
p. 692. 



A man can pre-empt an area of unoccupied waste land as 
long as he marks the boundaries by felling a tree here and there 
along the proposed boundary line, and by cultivating a small 
patch within the pre-empted area. This done, his title to the 
land is recognized by the tribe and he can if he desires sell a 
portion of a piece of the land so pre-empted to a neighbour, 
being, however, uncultivated, the price would not be high, only 
about one rupee for an acre. Cultivated shambas cost much 
more, and formerly for a shamba large enough for four women 
to work, say three acres, and near a stream, would cost a cow, 
but now-a-days cattle are very dear and one would pay about 
ten rupees in cash. A shamba which had no frontage on a 
stream would be cheaper. 

When a man dies each of his widows continues to cultivate 
her own shamba until she dies or is unable to, and her eldest son 
then takes possession of it. 

No particular area is set apart for grazing and no title to 
grazing land is acknowledged. In former days when they could 
not take their cattle into the plains for fear of the Masai, they 
were very cramped for grazing ground and it was the practice 
to fence certain areas in among the cultivated districts which were 
set apart as commonage for grazing — these were called Kisesi, 

The boundaries of plantations are usually marked by certain 
trees and shrubs ; the principal are the following : — 

Kiluma — a thorny Solanum with a yellow fruit the size of a 
hen's ^^'g. 

Iliba — (not determined). 

Chatha — one of the Euphorbiacae — a thornless variety. 

When an old man is on the point of death he will collect his 
sons and tell them to walk round his shambas and take note of 
the shrubs he planted on the various parts of the boundaries, 
and he will also enumerate any debts that are owing to him. 
The sons will then ask him to mention any witnesses who could 
testify to the planting of the boundaries or to the matter of the 
debts, these persons will, if they are available, be called up and 
reminded of the fact in the old man's presence, and after that, in 
any dispute with regard to the estate of the deceased, their 
evidence would settle the matter. 





If a person leaves his village and goes elsewhere the old 
huts are sometimes bought by someone else for Rs. 2/- per hut 
or if a lot of firewood is left in the hut for Rs. 4/-. The huts 
themselves are not used but pulled down and the purchasei 
takes off the parts he wants to build another hut. 

When a person leaves one part of the country for another he 
sells his shamba for a rupee or two. If he is unable to find 
a purchaser he leaves his shamba^ but if he comes back and_ 
finds anyone cultivating it he demands the price of it. 

If a man has cultivated a large tract of land and finds he 
cannot keep up the same he will sell a portion of it. 

There does not seem to be any custom of letting land to 
a tenant. ^fl 

If a piece of cultivated land is very large, and cannot be 
cleared by the owner and his wives, he goes forth to look for 
friends to come and help him. The friends are not paid but 
much food is cooked and given to them. ( 

Many A-Kamba now use A-Kikuyu for field work at Rs. 2/- 
or 3/- per mensem, but A-Kamba do not hire A-Kamba. The 
custom of using A-Kikuyu is of recent date, it has sprung up 
during the last three or four years, the labourers generally come 
from Mbe, Embu, and the region South of Mt Kenya. 



Plate XI 

(22) Framework of a Kamba hut in course ot construction. 

(23) Dry sandy watercourse Wathomi — Ulu — typical of U-Kamba. 



The A-Kamba will tell you that they have two gods : — 

(i) Engai or Mulungu, an impersonal deity who is vaguely 
supposed to live in the sky {Matuni). 

(2) Aiimii. These are innumerable and ubiquitous and are 
the spirits of their ancestors ; they manifest themselves in many 

Some believe that every person has many A iimii in his body, 
others believe that ordinary people have only one but admit that 
a Mundu mue or big chief may have several. The Aiitnu are 
not supposed to reside in any particular part of a man's body 
but to pervade the whole. 

Death is due to the Aiimu leaving the human frame and 
when a person dies his Aiimu go and live in a wild fig tree 
{Mumbo)\ The spirits of the good and bad do not associate but 
live apart in separate fig trees called Mikuyu, and the people 
build miniature huts at the foot of each kind, these huts are 
called Nyumba wa Aiimu. 

A iimu do not enter into the Nthuku or clan totems. Women 
have Aiimu as well as men. 

The Aiimu are controlled by Engai and Engai will some- 
times deliver a message to the people through Aiimu who will 
be employed for that purpose. On occasions of this nature the 
Aiimu will enter into the person of a woman or medicine-man, 
the medium will become as one possessed and will prophecy. 
In former years when the Masai raided Ukamba the Aiimu 
would often warn a medicine-man who would call out and tell 
the people to be ready, for the Masai would attack them within 
a few days. 

* In Thaka country the Aiimu are supposed to haunt tamarind trees {M^Aumuda) 
and the people sacrifice there upon occasion. 



In every district there is one particular woman who is a 
medium for manifestations from the Aiimu. A person will 
sometimes be seized by a kind of madness called Nduoka 
{Swahili-Kilalu\ when this occurs the people say that Aiimu 
have entered into the person. 

When a man sleeps it is the Aiimu that brings sleep and 
often in a dream he will hear the Aiimu speak. Sometimes at 
night the people will hear a child crying in the road outside the 
village when they know it is impossible for a child to be there, 
this is a sign that Aiimu are passing. 

The chief Nthiwa told me that he was returning home late 
one night from a distant village and he suddenly heard a child 
crying out ahead of him, he hurried on to find the child, when 
suddenly it cried out some distance behind him. 

At other times an inexplicable light is seen moving across 
the country side at night time, this is a sign of the Aiimu ; they 
are however never seen in human form. 

Before any crop can be eaten an offering of first fruits must 
be made to the Aiimu. The offerings are made in a place 
cleared under the village Mumbo or wild fig tree, the clearing 
is called Ithembo (the place of praying). 

All the people of the district assemble and a very old man 
and woman, selected for the purpose, leave the crowd and proceed 
together to the Ithembo and cry out aloud Twa themba Aiimu^ 
and go on to say that they want permission to eat their crops. 
The people then dance and during the dance one of the 
women present is sure to be seized with a fit of shaking and cry 
out aloud — this sign is known to be the answer to the people's 
prayer to the Aiimu, 

Legends connected with the Aiimu beliefs. 

At Kibauoni or Gibauoni, a mountain in the east part of Ulu 
district, there is believed to be a ghost of a bull with only one 
leg, this is said to have been often seen but when anyone ap- 
proached it, it disappeared. For some years after the cattle 
disease (rinderpest) swept off nearly all the cattle, of an evening 
high up on the mountain the people used to hear the lowing of 
large herds of cattle but could not see them. One day the grass 





lu II 


on the mountain caught fire and spread up to an important 
Ithembo or shrine which was under a large sacred Mumbo tree 
and when the fire reached the tree loud shrieks of human beings, 
bellowing of cattle and bleating of sheep and goats was heard 
but nothing was visible to the human eye. This throws rather 
important light on the animistic beliefs of these people as it 
shews that the A-Kamba believe that the domestic animals 
possess souls as well as mankind. 

There is a hill called Mukongo between Kilungu and Mwea, 
some 1 5 miles south of Machakos, which is said to be haunted by 
innumerable Aiimti, the place is covered with thick bush and 
people are afraid to go there. It is related that on one occasion 
some women went to cut firewood there, and having chopped 
their sticks they hoisted their loads on their backs and started 
for home, but before they had reached the edge of the wood 
their loads were set on fire by the Aiimu, so they hurriedly 
dropped their bundles, unfastened their straps and fled ; and it 
is said that directly the sticks were dropped they ceased to blaze. 

It is said that if anyone in the neighbourhood dies and if, 
within a few days after the death, a friend of the deceased visits 
these haunted woods he may see his dead friend walking about 
there. I enquired if the deceased ever spoke, but they said that 
the inquisitive person was usually so terrified that he ran away. 

On one occasion some people made a garden close under this 
hill and planted it with wimbi^ the grain germinated quite well 
but as it grew up instead of bearing grain it all turned into grass, 
which shewed that the Aiimu were annoyed at an encroachment 
on their sacred preserves. The elders then met and discussed 
the matter and issued orders that no one should in future attempt 
to cut wood there or cultivate near by. 

There is a legend of a pool at a place called Manyani, a few 
miles from Machakos, where mysterious fire is seen at night, and 
it is said that several people have disappeared there in some 
unknown manner: the fire is probably only the well-known ignis 
fatuus or marsh gas. In another place there is a legend of an 
unnatural being which was formerly seen; one side of this creature 
was the body of a beautiful woman and the other side was the 
body of a handsome man. 



At a place called I-Kiwi in the Maruba valley there is said 
to reside a very big python ; it lives at one of the Ithembo or 
Aiimu shrines and the A-Kamba in the vicinity feed it with 
milk and ghee ; the place is called Ilubia. 

Ilubia was the name of an old legendary chief who lived long 
long ago, he had a son named Mwicha. One day Ilubia killed 
a goat and he desired to peg out the skin to dry it, and so he 
went out into the bush and cut some sticks of a wood called 
Kiboo which is very soft and pithy and quite unsuited for the 
purpose for which it was required and he tried and tried to f>eg 
out the goat skin with this wood and failed ; his son Mwicha 
however wishing to put his father to shame took the same rotten 
pegs and pegged out the skin on a big slab of hard rock near 
the village. The old man was very annoyed at his son scoring 
off him in this way, so he dressed himself up with all his brass 
and iron chains and bracelets that he possessed and went and 
prayed at the local Ithembo and then vanished from sight and 
disappeared in the heavens and stayed there for two days. And 
all the people knew then that Ilubia's supernatural powers were 
greater than those of his son. 

In Kitui district, in the part known as Kini near the village 
of Ndama wa Nthuku, there is said to be a cave {Ngiingd) called 
Kapia. This is believed to be a favourite abode of the Aiimu 
and at night the voices of children can be heard calling from it. 
If a person dies in a village near by, the footsteps of the 
deceased are seen next morning leading into the cave\ Asked 
how it was known that they were the footsteps of the deceased 
they gave a curious proof, viz. that some time back a man living 
in that locality had six fingers and six toes, he died and next 
day they saw footprints leading into the cave and each footprint 
was that of a six toed person. 

There is also said to be a holy rock in Kitui district at a 
place called Kapingo, near the village of Kwithia wa Katumo, 
this rock is called Nzambani and it is believed that if a person 
walks round it, he or she changes sex. 

Further research into the spiritual beliefs of this people has 
brought to light some interesting facts and enabled the writer 

^ Vide Tylor's Primitive Culture, p. 455 (2nd ed.). 





to gain a clearer insight into the way these natives view the 
matter. It appears that quite apart from the ordinary AiimUy 
who are supposed to haunt certain sacred fig trees {Mumbo) and 
to whom the people periodically sacrifice at what are called 
Itkembo, there is another class of spirits called Aiimu ya 

These spirits haunt woods and waste places and are said to 
correspond more to the Swahili " Shaitani " ; they are evil spirits 
and are supposed to be the disembodied relics of people who 
have killed their neighbours by the help of black magic, and 
that the Supreme Being has banished these Aiimu to the woods 
where they wander about without anybody to care for them by 
sacrificing to them. They are a vindictive crew and enter into 
people who are working in distant fields and cause them to 
become seized with a kind of madness ; persons so affected return 
to their villages, moan, groan and roll about and the Aiimu 
speak through the mouth of the possessed person and perhaps 
say they want a Ngoma, a drumming feast, performed in their 
honour. The people of the village then collect in a hut, the 
possessed one sits in the centre, the people make a drumming 
close by the patient for some hours and they kill a goat in the 
hut, if it is considered a serious case they may even kill a 
bullock close outside the door of the hut. Pieces of meat from 
each of the legs of the sacrifice are then placed close to the 
patient and after a little the Aiimu leave the person and he or 
she recovers. The portions of meat are left there till morning 
and the Aiimu are believed to eat a little during the night, any 
remaining in the morning is thrown away. The balance of 
the carcase of the slaughtered animal is eaten by the 

Another aspect of the spiritual beliefs of the A-Kamba and 
one which shews the intimate nature of the communion which 
exists in their minds between the spirits of their ancestors and the 
living, is demonstrated by the fact that every married woman is 
believed to be at the same time the wife of a living man and 
also the wife of some Aiimu or spirit of a departed ancestor. 

This fully explains what was not at all clear in the earlier 
stages of this enquiry, viz. that women are generally used as 



the vehicles of expression by the Aiimu, and the Aiimu who is 
spiritually wedded to any particular woman will often through 
the mouth of his corporeal wife state his name, and the old 
people of the village will remark on this when they hear the 
name, and for instance say, " Oh yes, that was so and so's great 
great grandfather." It is firmly believed that the fertility of a 
wife depends to a great extent on her spiritual husband, and if a 
woman does not become enceinte during the first six months 
after her marriage they consider that her particular Aiimu is (j 
neglecting her, and they make an offering of beer and kill a goat 
as a propitiatory sacrifice, and if that fails, a few months later 
make a bigger feast and kill a bullock. If a woman bears 
quickly after marriage they are very pleased because they con- 
sider that she has found favour in the eyes of her Aiimu. As 
was elsewhere mentioned, upon the occasion of a birth, goats, etc. 
are slaughtered, and the explanation of this is, that they are 
sacrifices in the nature of a thankoffering to the Aiimu who 
has been instrumental in the matter. 

The story of the man and the enchantress. 

In the Mboni district of Ulu a long time ago, a certain 
young man went for a walk one night and he met a very 
beautiful women in the path, he spoke to her and eventually 
took her to his mother's house, his mother welcomed the visitor 
and offered her some food and to everyone's surprise she replied 
"I do not eat food." She slept in the hut and in the morning 
the young man's parents awoke and called their son but he was 
missing, and the mysterious woman had also gone and the door 
was still tightly fastened. The mother called out and said, 
"This woman must have been an evil spirit in human form for she 
would not eat and now my son is lost to me for ever." The 
father summoned all the people of the village, and they searched 
far and wide for many days but found no trace of the youth or 
the woman. There were, however, two young bullocks missing 
out of the cattle kraal that morning and the people said that 
these had been taken for the couple to eat on their journey. 


The encounter between the Mii-Kamba and the Aiimu. 

A man who lived at Kitundu went out one night about 
midnight to look at a maize field some distance away to see if 
any monkeys were eating it. On his way back to his village 
he met a spirit in the path, it was of enormous size and had only 
one leg, he stopped astonished by the apparition and before he 
could move he was struck down by a flash of fire and the 
spirit passed on its way. After a little while the man recovered 
strength and returned home. Some nights after this he went 
again to visit his maize crop, again met the spirit and was again 
struck down by the magic fire. This time, however, the spirit 
spoke to him and ordered him not to pass that way at night as 
it was his road. 

The man gradually recovered and returned to his hut. In 
the morning, however, he went to his father and told him that 
he declined to look after the distant maize field any more, that 
twice he had been struck down by Aiimu and he therefore 
begged his father to turn the cattle into the crop to eat it up. 
His father agreed and so the son took the village herd of cattle 
and let them eat up the whole crop, afterwards the people never 
cultivated that shamba again. 

The story of the miserly father. 

There was a certain young man in days gone by who lived 
in a village in the Ulu hills, and he asked his father to hand 
over to him some livestock with which to buy a wife. The 
father however was a stingy person, and said, "Oh no, I have no 
cattle ox goats to spare just now, but at the end of this year 
I will consider it and will try and buy you a wife." 

The youth was very angry at this answer and said, " Very 
well if you will not help me in this matter I will go up alone to 
Matu (the heavens)." 

The father replied, " Nonsense, you are not able to go up to 
Matu which is the home of the sun and the moon." 

The youth thereupon ascended to the heavens in sight of his 
father and disappeared, he stayed there two days, and on the 
third day reappeared at the village and again asked his father to 



buy him a wife, and said, "If you don't agree this time you will ■ 
go up to the heavens too, but if you do go I shall not bother you 
again about this matter." The father, who was very obstinate, 
said, " I know I am not able to ascend to the heavens, but, believe 
me, at the end of the year I will buy you a wife." "f | 

This promise, however, would not satisfy the son, and he 
said, "Well, if you will not ascend to the skies, strike this rock 
with your head and you will go through it." The father said, 
" Can you do this ? " The son without further delay charged 
headlong at a great rock hard by the village and disappeared into 
the hill side. A little later he was seen coming round from the 
back of the hill and he entered the village, and again made the 
same request to his father. The father was now thoroughly 
cowed and said to his friends, "This son of mine must be half 
man and half spirit {Aiimti),'' and he told his son to take what- 
ever cattle he wanted, if he wanted to buy two wives, or even 
ten wives, he could take sufficient cattle. He told his father 
that he wanted enough cattle to marry two wives then, and two 
more in a year's time in case either of the former wives should 
die. In the end he took away all his father's cattle except 
one cow. 

The footprints of spirits {Aiimu) are sometimes found im- 
printed on rocks ; there are some said to be seen to this day on 
a hill at Kataani near the river Mukunga. 


Plate XII 

(24) Kamba family group at door of hut. 

(25) Nzawi peak — southern extremity of Ulu district ; it is a granite fault scarp. 



A MEDICINE man is called Muoiin or Muoii\ there is no 
clan of Muoiin and it is not necessarily hereditary. A man can 
go off to a Muoiin and learn the art in a month or two but he 
has to pay a fee of as much as a cow to be taught. The Muoiin 
or Muoii is a person who deals in black art, bewitches people, 
and the Hke^ 

A Muoiin will sometimes open the grave of a chief, and cut 
off a piece of flesh, and take it away to the woods and make 
medicine to kill people. He will spit on the footprint of a 
man, and take up a little of the wetted sand, and the nose of 
a dead hyaena and the dung of an ox; and he will cook them 
together, and this is medicine to kill men or cattle or to spoil a 

A Mundu mue is a more harmless person, he deals in what 
may be called white magic, he is often called in to make medicine 
to protect a plantation or shamba from thieves ; if this is done 
and a thief comes along and helps himself to the crop he will 
become seized with a kind of madness, will call out and thus get 
caught. Charms are often put on trees in the shamba^ but these 
are frequently only put there for a blind, the real potent medicine 
is sprinkled on the ground. 

A Mundu mue can divert a flight of locusts from attacking 
certain shambas if he sees them a good long way off. 

If a person is bitten by a poisonous snake a medicine man is 
immediately called in, or failing that, a person who has obtained 
from a medicine man the power to cure snake bite. This power 
is said to be obtained thus : the medicine man makes a slight 

1 Among the Thaka people, the real wizard is termed Mugao and the ordinary 
medicine man is styled Mutu muwao. 



cut in the end of the man's tongue, and then rubs into the cut 
certain medicines, and after that if the person thus inoculated 
spits on a snake the reptile will go into convulsions, writhe about 
and bite itself to death. And if a medicine man or a person so 
inoculated spits on a person bitten by a snake the patient re-jj 
covers forthwith. If a person bitten by a snake cannot quickly 
obtain the services of one of these useful people he sends a 
runner post-haste to a professor in the art and the doctor cuts 
himself slightly till blood flow, and the messenger brings back 
a little blood, and rubs it on the snake bite, and the patient is 
said to invariably recover. II 

The A-Kamba do not keep tame or sacred snakes like 
some African tribes. The only case of a snake receiving any 
attention is that of the supposed python at Ilubia previously 
referred to. 

The Mundu mue predicts events, etc., by shaking seeds, 
pebbles, etc., in a gourd and then pouring them out a few at 
a time on a leopard skin. Among the A-Kamba a leopard 
skin is always used whereas the Uasingishu medicine men 
always use a lion skin for the purpose. This is explained by 
the principle of what is called sympathetic magic, the essence 
of the strength and fierceness of the lion or leopard being im- 
parted to the magic, rendering it more potent. 

The contents of a Mu-Kamba medicine man's magic gourd 
were examined ; there were not many pebbles but hard seeds 
and nuts of various trees were in the majority, the seeds of the 
wild banana and the raphia palm were identified, others could 
not be classified. The seeds, pebbles, etc., are called Mbuu by 
the A-Kamba and the gourd used is called Kititi cha Mbuu. 
The gourds are usually closed by a stopper made of the tail of ^ 
an ox or wildebeest. 

It is said that the medicine men's gourds are often adorned, 
with anthropomorphic figures, but such a one was not seen. 

A medicine man was asked how he came to collect such and 
such kinds of seeds and pebbles, and he explained that very 
often during the night he fell into a dream and in the morning 
he would wake up and find a particular kind of seed or pebble 
clasped in his hand, he knew then that he must go and search 


for another one like it and so on in course of time a stock is 

In times past murder by means of witch-craft and also by 
poison was very common and even now-a-days it is said to 

The murder was generally done by putting poison in beer^ 
or a woman would sometimes kill a guest by poisoning his food. 
If an Mkamba brings a present of honey for instance it is 
customary for him to taste it first to shew the recipient that 
it is not poisoned. Some are said to place "medicine" in the 
path were the victim has to pass ; if he treads on it he dies ; he 
is first seized by pains in the ankles, the pains then spread up to 
his knees and so on up to his head and then he dies. To kill by 
witch-craft in Ki-Kamba is Kithangaona. 

Another method employed is to put the " medicine " in a 
powder in the palm of your hand and blow it in the direction 
of the intended victim, it is said to be essential that the wind 
should at the time blow in his direction, this medicine is so 
powerful that it will kill a person at a distance of a mile or 

A milder form of this kind of medicine is undoubtedly used 
by thieves who rob huts at night ; they blow it in the direction of 
the inmates of the hut and they become stupified and the thief 
steals with impunity. The chief Nthiwa told me that he had 
been recently robbed of Rs. 400 in this way ; he and his wife saw 
the thief enter the hut but were unable to move or call out. 

Kingnoli custom, etc. 

It often used to happen that someone unknown in a district 
was suspected time after time of killing people by witch-craft or 
poison. As a rule nothing was done until the victims reached six 
in number, but when the seventh victim became ill with the 
recognized symptoms the elders of the district would go off in 
ones and twos to the various medicine men, and it would usually 
turn out that when the elders reassembled it was found that the 
medicine men had all independently named the same person 
as being the criminal. The medicine men divine by shaking 
pebbles in a gourd and pouring them out on a leopard skin. 



The elders would then meet at a remote place in the woods and 
kill an ox by blows from a club, eat the meat and sleep there. 
In the morning they would separate and each elder would 
return to his village by a different route. They would wait 
three days and then meet again, and one elder would ask his 
fellows if they had said anything to warn the suspected person — 
another ox is killed and eaten — they then call the brothers of 
the suspect to the assembly and ask them why their brother or 
sister has killed so and so, and so and so, naming each victim ; 
the brothers of course deny all knowledge of the matter and 
then each elder who has lost a man from his village demands 
compensation from the brothers of the accused for the life of his 
man. In nearly every case these brothers refuse saying : How 
can we pay compensation for the lives of all these people. The 
principal elder then calls out with a loud voice and says, "If one 
man kills the accused it means compensation so we will do it all 
together and then no one will be able to say that any one man 
killed him," and they then all rush to the place where the accused 
is to be found and the people of the villages follow in a great 
crowd and they kill the accused : a man is killed by arrows and 
a woman is stoned to death. They then bury the body very 
deep, but sometimes they burn it in his hut. 

The custom is called Kingnoli. 

A person killed in this way is called Mthtiku or Muoiin. 

After the corpse is disposed of they kill a number of goats 
and cutting open the chests of the animals they smear their 
faces and bodies with the contents of the stomach, this cleans 
away the taint of the Mthuku and after that they all go down 
to a stream to bathe. The chiefs assured me that this custom 
was now obsolete but some officials believe that it still takes 
place in remote parts. The last acknowledged case in Ulu 
district occurred in the famine of 1898 near Machakos Hill at 
Matizo's village. ^j 

A middle aged man was seen wearing small twigs of wood 
on his neck and ankles, these came from a tree called 
Muthito and were amuletic in character and part of a lustration 

The story is as follows: — In the great famine of 1898-9 his 



parents and some of his brothers and sisters died ; now when a 
death occurs in a family before a man can resume relations with 
his wife he has to perform the ceremony called Ukuu, to break 
this custom is called Ku-uchwa or Ku-thambia, and it is believed 
that as a result of the offence the joints ache and sores break out 
all over the body, this visitation is called thabu and is probably 
believed to be the work of the A iimu of the deceased. 

The Ukuu ceremony is as follows : — the elders of the village 
go into the bush and collect branches of a plant called 
Muthumba and those of a broad leaved aloe called Ngnondu wa 
ithu ; these are pounded up with water and the mixture which is 
called Ngnondu must not be placed on the usual domestic 
utensils, viz. a half gourd, but on the leaves of a plant called 
Kiungu\ the chief elder then takes a little of the mixture in 
each hand and makes passes over the outline of the body of the 
subject. He begins on each side of the head and ends by laying 
the Ngnondu between the feet, he does this three times and the 
subject then rubs his feet in the Ngnondu, the purification is then 
complete and the man is free to perform his marital functions. 

The man referred to had omitted to perform the Ukuu 
ceremony after the death of his relations, and had therefore 
become very emaciated and had generally fallen into chronic 
ill-health. He was so ill that eventually he underwent a course 
of treatment from a medicine man to free him from the curse of 
his relations. Aiimu and the charms he was wearing were part 
of the treatment, it was said that it would take two years to 
cure him. 

If a Mu-Kamba is sick for a long time of an inexplicable 
disease the term Ku-thumua is used. 

Another outfit belonging to an itinerant Mu-Kamba medicine 
man was recently examined and found to contain some items of 
interest, especially the evidences of sympathetic magic which it 

The objects used for divination (the Mbuu) were, as is usual, 
carried in a gourd and upon this receptacle a device was carved, 
this was said to represent a combination of Ngu the tortoise and 
a star, it is shewn in the illustration, p. 98. 

One can imagine the representation of a tortoise but the 

H. 7 



central part of the design which is said to represent the star is 
not very intelligible. 

The gourd was stoppered with the tail of a hyena and the 
Mbuu when poured out for magical purposes were spread upon \ 
the skin of a serval cat {Felis serval), presumably the cat skin 
was more portable than that of a leopard or lion and being 

Tail of HYyfNA 

Kititi cha mbuu. 
Gourd of a medicine man named Kaimba. 


a fierce beast the post mortem influence of its fierceness assisted 
the virtue of the magic, the hyaena tail stopper would also 
undoubtedly have an effect. 

The majority of the Mbuu in this case were seeds of the wild 
banana {Musa Livingstonia) but among them were a few curious 
things, viz. several crocodile teeth stuffed with medicine and 
stoppered by the scarlet seed of the Aberis precatorius (called 
Kibuti in Ki-Kamba), the medicine contained in the tooth was 
said to be very effective for rheumatism and colic, and doubtless 


its efficacy gained an enhanced value from being placed in the 
tooth of such a fierce animal as the crocodile. 

Another curiosity was a small bone taken out of the paw of 
a lion, this was believed to be effective medicine for pains in the 
joints of the legs and feet and it doubtless owed its strength to 
the agility and swiftness of the lion. The spur of a domestic 
cock was also found and this was filled with medicine designed 
to prevent the owner being seized by a lion or other wild beast 
when travelling. The plucky nature of a cock could hardly be 
expected to combat the fierceness of a lion, but possibly the 
ability of a bird to escape the attack of a carnivore by flying 
into a tree might be the idea. 

Some fragments of porcupine quills were noticed and these 
it is said were charms to protect shambas, or plantations; the 
magician burns the ends of one of the pieces a little and walks 
round a field full of crops, and this protects the contents from 
the attacks of porcupine and other animals which destroy them. 

There were some fragments of a wood called Mukao, these 
are worn by travellers to protect them from the dangers of the 

A bit of wood with a brass ferule at one end attracted 
attention, this is called Muthiwa and is used as a kind of 
fortune telling charm : a young man comes to the magician and 
tells him that he desires to get married and wishes to know if 
this is likely to occur; the magician shakes his gourd full of 
Mbuu and shoots some out on to the leopard skin and if the 
Muthiwa pops out early then the client will soon be married to 
the girl of his choice and vice versa if the appearance of the 
Muthiwa is delayed. 

There is one very important point to be observed in connection 
with the gourd in which the magician carries his Mbuu, The 
gourd must on no account be emptied of Mbuu, three or four 
must always be left in the gourd, possibly the gourd attains 
some magical virtue through association with the Mbuu and if 
they are all emptied out it loses this. 

Some of the Kamba magicians carry an iron cattle-bell 
attached to a leather thong, this is rung during the fortune 
telling ceremony, it is supposed to attract the attention of the 


Aiimu or spirits, and this shews that the magician believes that j^| 
his results are dependent upon the assistance of the Aiimu. ]^| 
This bell is called Mbui and one magician told me that he J 
dreamt God told him in a dream that he should get a bell and I 
he made a special journey to Kikuyu to buy it ; upon his return I 
home he made a feast of beer and killed a bullock to propitiate j^a 
the Aiimu, ^^ 

Medicine men also carry round with them a miscellaneous ^k 
assortment of powders, which are usually of a herbal origin ; i^H 
some of these are magical and some only ordinary medicinal I 
remedies, but there is no hard and fast line between magic and 
medicine in the minds of the natives of this country. .^H 

To give a few examples of these medicines from actual j^^ 
observation. ^^ 

(i) This was a grey powder and was said to be made from 
the trees MuthacJiia ndundu and Mukolechia, its function was 
a very important one as it was believed to be an antidote to all 
other medicines or magic. \ 

(2) Made from a tree called Mwila wimbu and it was 
simply a medicine for diarrhoea; it is mixed with water supplied 
by the physician and this water is obtained from a place where 
frogs call out. 

(3) A white earth called Iga (evidently the same as the 
Kikuyu Ira) ; the use of this was very curious, it was said to be 
applied to the root of any tree from which medicine had been 
made, the medicine is usually made from the root and the Iga 
would be applied to the place where the piece of root was cut 

(4) This was a blackish mixture in a shell and is used to 
cure swellings on the limbs, and it was called Mochia and was 
made from a tree called Mubukulu. 

(5) This was a Thomsonii gazelle horn filled with a dark, 
mixture ; it is called Kithito but is quite distinct from the Kithito 
used in the oath ceremony. It contained medicine made from 
two trees Mwema Manzi and Mukao. In conjunction with 
medicine No. 4 it is used for assisting women in childbirth. 
The horn with the medicine inside is pointed at the patient and 
lines are made on the patient's abdomen with the horn. 


Ithobu custom. 

It was formerly the custom to pick up sticks or stones at 
the side of the road at the place where something bad or un- 
lucky had been seen, for instance, if a man saw some human 
excrement near the side of the road he would throw a stick 
or stone on it and the next passer by would do likewise, and so 
on, till quite a heap accumulated. The same custom prevailed 
among the Masai, and great cairns of stone may be seen at 
places on the road between Kinobop plateau and Naivasha, the 
Masai also place stones in trees to delay the setting of the sun, 
and thus enable the traveller to reach his journey's end before 
dark; they also put wisps of grass in certain trees near Naivasha, 
this is probably a propitiatory offering to spirits believed to 
frequent the vicinity of £he trees in question. 

If a Mu-Kamba cuts his hair or nails, he throws the cuttings 
into a thicket, for it is believed that if anyone picked any of 
them up, and burned them, the owner would fall ill. This is a 
very widespread belief and is traceable to the idea that hair, etc., 
contains part of the spiritual essence of the owner, and that the 
owner is capable of feeling an injury done to any part of himself, 
even after it is separated from him. Other superstitions are, 
however, not so easily explained, e.g. in crossing a stream, if you 
drink there you must eject a mouthful of the water back into 
the stream, it is believed that if you omit to do so you will die. 
Truly the life of a savage native is a complex matter, and he is 
hedged round by all sorts of rules and prohibitions, the infringe- 
ment of which will probably cause his death, if only by the 
intense belief he has in the rules which guide his life. 



Prohibitions^ etc. 

If one man kills another he cannot cohabit with his wife 
until the elders have met and made medicine, which is prin- 
cipally derived from the Ngnondu (Solanum fruit). This 
medicine is rubbed over the man's body and is evidently a 
purification ceremony. 

If a man marries he cannot eat the totem animal of his 
wife's clan, neither can his children. 

One of the principal totem animals among the Wakamba is 
a small antelope called Ndoya or Ndwaya which is a bush-buck. 
The Eombi clan are particularly strict in this matter. It is 
related that some hunters once went out and killed a Ndoya 
and they all broke out into dreadful sores, so after that they 
made the Ndoya tabu. 

People to whom the Ndoya is tabu are not allowed to have 
a tame Ndoya in their villages, they are not allowed to touch one 
of the animals or even to wear pieces of the skin. 

The members of the Asi clan are very strict observers of 
their own particular tabu which is liver. If an Asi clansman 
was to eat liver it is believed that his eyes would weep con- 
tinuously ever afterwards. Women have to observe these 
prohibitions equally with the men. : 

Occasionally one meets a member of a clan who is allowed 
to eat the thing which is tabu to his clan. | 

Women may never eat the tongue or heart of an animal. 

If a man or woman goes on a journey their son cannot 
cohabit with his wife while either is absent or the traveller will 




upon his or her return fall very ill with fever. If this prohibition 
is broken, it is necessary for the offender to kill a big male goat 
at the door of the hut and the returning traveller rubs his feet 
in the contents of the stomach before entering the house. 

If a man's wife menstruates while one of his sons is away 
from the village on a journey the father cannot cohabit with 
that wife. If he does he must purge his offence in the following 
way: — some Ngnondii leaves, Mitaa leaves and Mumo (sacred 
fig-tree) leaves are mixed with water, a child sprinkles the 
mixture in the gate of the village and the traveller can then 
enter with safety. 

A man may not have connection with a woman from behind, 
the woman will not conceive until he has purged his error by 
smearing himself with the contents of a goat's stomach. 

It is considered a grave offence for a woman to commit 
incest with a brother, if she conceives she is sure to abort. The 
man has to purge his sin by bringing a big goat to the elders 
and the woman is ceremonially smeared with the contents of its 

Mother-in-law, etc. 

If a man meets his mother-in-law in the road they both hide 
their faces and pass by in the bush on opposite sides of the 

If a man did not observe this custom and at any time 
wanted to marry another wife it would prove a serious stigma 
and parents would have nothing to do with him. Moreover if 
a wife heard that her husband had stopped and spoken to her 
mother in the road she would leave him. 

If a man has business he wishes to discuss with his mother- 
in-law he goes to her hut at night and she will talk to him from 
behind the partition in the hut. 

A man can however take steps to remove this prohibition ; 
he gives due notice of his intention and then on a certain day 
the people of the neighbourhood collect at the village where his 
mother-in-law lives and the man sends them an ox, a big goat, 
several pots of honey and a supply of beer, the assembled 
company then hold a great dance and feast, and the man 


formally presents a blanket to both his father-in-law and 
mother-in-law and after that he need take no special pre- 
cautions in the matter. 

If a girl of the age of puberty meets her father in the road 
she hides as he passes, nor can she ever go and sit near him in 
the village until the day comes when he tells her that it has 
been arranged for her to marry a certain man. After marriage 
she does not avoid her father in any way. 

Omens, etc. 

They believe in an omen bird which it is forbidden to slay- 
it is a small kind of woodpecker with a red head and is called 
Ngoma Komi, it is known by the Swahilis as Korongonda. If 
it calls out on the left side of a traveller it is a good omen, they 
say that in the old days it would often lead one to a dead 
elephant. If it calls out on the right side it is not a good sign 
but the traveller may get some food at his journey's end. 

If it calls out ahead of you the chances are that you will be 
attacked by a lion or a rhinoceros. If it calls out in a shamba 
the elders can tell whether the time is propitious for cultivating 
and planting. 

If a hyaena {Mbiti) or jackal {Mbewa) crosses your path from 
right to left it is a bad omen. 

But if it crosses from left to right it is good. 

Similar omens are observed in Kavirondo and Nandi but the 
rules are not quite the same, among the Bantu Kavirondo how- 
ever the luck always follows the left or female side. 

The ground hornbill {Ndundu) is a bird of ill omen — if it 
settles in a tree near a village so that it can overlook the village 
and utters its deep bass booming note, some inhabitant of the 
village is said to be sure to sicken and die within a few days. 
To obviate this the people place broken cooking pots in the 
trees near a village, the bird sees these black objects and is 
afraid to settle there. 

The A-Kamba believe that it is very unlucky to move cattle 
or live-stock of any kind from one place to another or even to 
give a present of any stock — during the first four days of the 
new moon. 



If stock is moved or given during those four days it is 
believed that extreme bad luck will attend them during the 
month and that circumstances will arise which will force them to 
hand over more live-stock to other people. 

If a child cuts its lower teeth first it is a good sign. It is a 
bad sign for the upper teeth to appear first, and the child is 
called Chuma, the child however is not killed. 

If a child dies who has not had the middle incisor in its 
lower jaw knocked out, this tooth is knocked out after death, 
this is considered very important for if omitted someone is said 
to surely die in the village soon afterwards. 

An eagle called Ndiu sometimes seizes young goats out of a 
village, this is considered a very lucky omen and the owner of 
an animal so carried off is said to certainly grow rich. 


If one man curses another he says Kino which is the synonym 
for the female pudenda. 

A worse form of curse is when a person couples the mother 
of the object with the curse, the form then used is Kino cha 

A father never curses his daughter but may upon occasion 
curse his son. 

If a son curses his father, the various members of the clan 
assemble, and the son is seized by a dozen men or so and well 
beaten with sticks, and he has to kill an ox and make a feast to 
purge his sin. 

After cursing a reprobate son or a bad wife the man cere- 
monially washes his penis, this adds to the seriousness of the 

There is also a special curse used for a bad wife, the husband 
draws a little milk from her breast into his hand and then licks 
it up, this is a curse which has no palliative, after it the husband 
can never again cohabit with the woman. 

Kamba medicines. 

A plant called Wala is used for a disordered stomach, and 
also for bad eyes. It is a small shrub with a long root, the root 



is pounded and taken with water for the stomach, it causes 
diarrhoea for two days. 

For the eyes the leaves are used : the juice is pressed from the 
leaves into the eye. 

The leaves of Wimbi (Eleusine grain) are boiled after 
chopping fine and the concoction drunk for fever. It is very 
good medicine. 

A vine called Kikuunguti is used for fever. The fruit is like 
a small cucumber. Some of these are put into the ashes of a 
fire till they get soft ; they are then pressed out and the extract 
is drunk either with water, gruel, or by itself. It is good for 
fever and head-ache. 

A plant called Ithunga — a milky plant — is used for gonorrhoea. 
The plant is pulled up, roots and leaves pounded with sugar 
cane, the juice squeezed out and drunk. It is apparently 
diuretic and allays inflammation, if the parts are badly swollen 
in three days it is said they will be reduced to normal condition. 

The A-Kamba have a drug which they give to cattle and 
which makes the cattle follow them at a trot. The constituents 
are fragments of the wood of a certain tree, a pinch of native 
salt, and bits of grass from the nest of an ant which clears a 
bare place in the bush and in the centre of the clearing collects 
quantities of grass seeds, etc.; these items are all ground up 
together, a little is put on the beast's lips and the man eats a 
little. The author recently saw a young bull which refused to 
be driven ; it lay down and the herdsmen debated whether it had 
not better be killed ; an old fellow who was somewhat of a 
medicine man turned up and administered a little of this medicine, 
and there was no further trouble, it trotted along gaily ahead of 
the party, following the man who had given it the medicine, 
which they know by the name of Kineli. 

The above-mentioned medicines are matters of common 
knowledge among the elders of the tribe and are not necessarily 
associated with the magician class. 

Plate XIII 

(26) Typical Ntliele or young married Mu-Kamba — Ulu district. 



The A-Kamba say they possess a great wealth of folk tales 
which they call Wano. 

The following are examples : — 

Story of origin of death. 

There was once a frog Chua^ a chameleon Kimbu, and a bird 
called Itoroko. These three were sent by Engai^ God, to search 
for human beings who died one day and came to life again the 
next day ; the chameleon was in those days a very important 
personage, and he led the way. They went on their mission, 
and presently the chameleon saw some people lying apparently 
dead, so as they approached the corpses he called out to them 
softly, " Niwe, itiwe, niwe." The Itoroko was vexed with the 
chameleon, and asked what he was making that noise for. The 
chameleon replied, " I am only calling the people who go forward 
and them come back," and the Itoroko derisively declared that it 
was an impossible task to find people who ever came back to 
life. The chameleon, however, maintained that it was possible 
and jokingly said, " Do not I go forward and come back } " 
(referring to the unique way a chameleon swings or lurches 
backwards and forwards before taking a step). The three then 
reached the spot where the dead people were lying, and in 
response to the calling of the chameleon they opened their eyes 
and listened to him. But the Itoroko called out and said, " Ye 
are dead to this world and must stay where you are, you cannot 
rise to life again." The Itoroko then flew away and the frog and 
the chameleon stayed behind, and the latter re-addressed the 


dead and said, " I was sent by Engai to wake you up ; do not 
believe the words of the Itoroko, he only tells you lies." The 
spell of his power was, however, broken, and his entreaties were 
of no avail. They then returned to Engai, and He questioned 
the chameleon as to the result of his mission. He said, " Did 
you go ? " and the chameleon said, " Yes " ; he then said, " Did 
you find the people ? " and the chameleon said, " Yes " ; he then 
asked, " What did you say ? " and the chameleon said, " I called 
out Niwe, niwe, niwe. I spoke very gently, but the Itoroko 
interrupted me and drowned my voice, so the dead people only 
listened to what he said." Engai then asked the Itoroko if this 
was so, and the Itoroko stated that the chameleon was making 
such a mess of his errand that he felt obliged to interrupt him. 
Engai believed the story of the Itoroko, and being very vexed 
with the way the chameleon had executed his commands, 
reduced him from his high estate and ordained that ever after 
he should only be able to walk very, very slowly, and he should 
never have any teeth. The Itoroko came into high favour, and 
Engai delegated to him the work of waking up the inhabitants 
of the world ; the Itoroko therefore to this day wakes up and 
calls out about 2 A.M., whereas the other birds only awake 
about 4 A.M. 

This story appears to be connected with a very widespread 
idea on the origin of death ; an obvious variant of the legend is 
found among the Bantu tribe of South Africa vide the version 
given in Kidd's Essential Kafir^ page 76. The main points 
of this version are as follows : — Umkulu-nkulu (who in South 
Africa appears to represent to Kamba Mulimgii) chose the 
chameleon as a messenger to earth to tell men that they would 
live for ever. The lazy fellow however loitered on the road and 
eventually fell asleep before he arrived. Then Umkulu-nkulu 
changed his mind and sent a message of death to human kind. 
This time he employed a lizard as messenger, he proved a better 
Mercury and never stopped till he reached his destination and 
delivered his message. Presently the chameleon awoke and 
continued his journey and delivered his message, the lizard 
however slapped his face and said "Begone, the message is 
that men shall die." 



The people believed the lizard because he arrived first and 
drove away the chameleon as an impostor. This is why the 
natives of South Africa hate the chameleon, saying "But for you 
we should never die." 

When we consider the distance of over 2000 miles between 
the Kafirs of South Africa and the A-Kamba it astonishes one 
to find with what persistence a folk tale survives. 

In the Kamba version the lizard is replaced for some reason 
by a bird called Itoroko. 

Note. The Itoroko or Siotoroka, as it is called in Kitui, is a 
small bird of the thrush tribe, with a black head, bluish black 
back and a buff coloured breast ; its Luganda name is Nyonza 
and Swahili name Kurumbizi {Cossypha imolaens), I was recently 
marching at night through part of Mumoni district and at 
3.10 A.M. a bird commenced to call in the bush, and I enquired 
what the bird was and was told it was the Itoroko. My inform- 
ants were not the people from whom I obtained the folk story 
about it. 

The following is a story of that old favourite in Bantu folk 
lore^ namely the Hyaena. 

The hyaena, the hare and the lion agreed they would each 
go off and try to find a wife. The hare went off to marry the 
daughter of the jackal, the lion went off to find the daughter of 
another animal, but the hyaena thought he would go and try to 
marry the daughter of an Mkamba. 

The hyaena therefore started taking with him some cattle 
and goats to pay for his intended bride. During the day he 
assumed human shape and walked on two legs, but when dark- 
ness came on he reverted to a hyaena and went on four legs. 
He arrived with his stock at a village where a certain damsel 
lived and stated his errand, and was received in a friendly way ; 
he said his name was Mutili. Night came and he changed 
back to a hyaena, and feeling hungry he went to the hut of his 
prospective mother-in-law to eat. When he reached the hut 
however some sheep who were there smelt him, became frightened 
and rushed to and fro ; the mother of the girl thereupon came to 
the door with a firebrand to see what was frightening the sheep. 


and called out, " Who is there ? " In reply the hyaena gave 
vent to a loud howl. The woman, who had never heard the 
cry of a hyaena before, replied, " Well, whoever you are, go to 
sleep now and in the morning we will talk." So the hyaena got 
no supper and in the night he became very hungry, and seeing a 
sheep near by with a great fat tail, he bit off the tail and ate it. 
In the morning the villagers turned out the sheep and saw one 
with his tail missing. They were very surprised at this, and 
looking round for the cause saw the hyaena (now of course in 
the shape of a man again) and the fat from the tail hanging all 
round his mouth. Thereupon the villagers seized sticks and 
beat him severely, shouting out, " You are not Mutili but Mbiti^ 
because you eat meat raw." They drove him out of the village, 
and he fled away to the woods. 

The hyaena was very sore at heart, and called together his 
friends the other hyaenas and said, " I took my property to the 
Wakamba to marry a wife, and they have kept it all and driven 
me away with blows ; now henceforward we will always prowl 
about at night and if we can ever seize any of the Wakamba 
stock we will do so." 

And so this became their custom, and now it is said that not 
a night passes but someone in the Kamba tribe loses an animal 
in this way. 

The Story of how the Animals got their Marks. ,^^m 

There once was a time when the wild beasts had no marKs 
and the leopard and the hyaena were the first to think they 
would like their coats ornamented, and so they went off together 
to a famous medicine man and asked him to adorn their skins. 

The medicine man agreed, and he mixed some stuff and 
told the leopard to lie down. He then took a stick and dipped 
it in the mixture and painted on the spots ; the leopard was 
then ordered to stand up in order that the magician could see 
the general effect of the work. The artist was however not 
quite satisfied, so he carefully painted the beast's face. He then 
told the hyaena it was his turn, and so the hyaena lay down and 
was painted in bigger spots with a different mixture. The 
medicine man then told the leopard to sing and he grunted 


and groaned as best he could, and then the hyaena had to sing 
and he let out his mournful howl ; the latter's voice did not at 
all meet with the approval of the magician, and he told the 
hyaena that he must be very wicked if he had a voice like that, 
and he told him that he should not decorate him prettily like 
the leopard. The hyaena was very annoyed and was jealous of 
the pretty coat the leopard had got, and he told the medicine 
man that whenever he had a chance he would carry off some 
of his goats and sheep and went off in high dudgeon. The 
medicine man then called the hartebeest and told him to sing. 
The hartebeest emitted his curious sneezing noise, and this did 
not meet with the approval of the medicine man, so he only 
painted him a uniform red colour. 

The zebra was then called up and told to sing, and he barked 
away merrily. This greatly pleased the medicine man, and he 
told him he would make him prettier than all the others, and 
painted him in his black and white stripes. This is how the 
animals got their different patterns. 

The Story of the Harey Ki-Kamba- Wa-paruku or Buku, 

There once was a time when the hare was very poor, but he 
was ambitious and anxious to become rich, and one day he went 
for a walk in the woods, and stopping to rest fell asleep. When 
he awoke from his sleep he espied some cattle, sheep and goats 
near by, and he said to himself, " I will creep up quietly, and I 
shall be able to get some milk," so he slipped stealthily through 
the grass and sucked some milk from a cow; he then looked 
round to see who was herding the animals, and he saw a 
MuKamba asleep under a tree; so he there and then collected 
the grazing beasts and drove them away into the heart of the 
woods. He then took a knife and cut off the animals' tails and 
took them back to a native path which passed near where the 
herdsman was sleeping; this path was split up into three parallel 
trails, and in one of these he buried the tails of the cattle in a 
row, and in the next one he planted a row of sheep's tails and in 
the third one he planted a row of goats' tails : he planted them 
all with the tip of the tail protruding above ground. 

The hare then "approached the drowsy herdsman and called 

112 FOLK LORE -^H 

out, " Nthi Nthi Kumeseo" which means " The earth has eaten 
up your property." The MuKamba awoke with a start and 
looked around in vain for his Hve-stock. The hare then hopped 
out of a bush, called the man and told him to follow him. The 
herdsman did so, and the hare took him along the path to the 
place where the tails were sticking out of the ground and said, 
"See, the earth has swallowed up everything but the tips of 
their tails, but let us pull both together at the tails and drag 
back your animals.'* The herdsman agreed to this, and the 
hare instructed him to pull when he gave the word, and when 
the MuKamba pulled upwards at a tail the hare pushed down- 
wards as hard as the MuKamba pulled upwards, so the tails 
would not move; presently the hare suddenly loosed hold and 
the tail came away in the MuKamba's hand, and the hare cried 
out, " Oh ! it has broken off and left the beast below ground " ; 
they then went on to where the sheep's tails were buried and 
then on to the goats' tails, and the same thing happened. The 
MuKamba then enquired what was next to be done, and the 
hare replied, "Well, the only thing is to dig out the animals, 
and so go and fetch a digging stick." The MuKamba did so, 
and dug a big hole without finding anything. The hare how- 
ever still urged him to go on digging, that he would be sure to 
find them if he only dug deep enough. The man dug and dug 
until he was quite exhausted, and he then gave it up as a bad 
job. The hare said, "You seem to be too tired to dig any 
deeper, so you had better go back to your village, but when 
you get home what shall you tell your friends } " The man 
said, " I shall tell them that the earth has swallowed up my 
cattle and sheep." 

So they parted, and the hare collected the live-stock and 
drove it off towards his home. On the way he met a lion, and 
the lion said, " How did a small person like you get all this 
wealth ? " and the hare replied, " Oh ! I have been on a raiding 
expedition and taken it by force, and I had to kill nine men to 
get it, and if you interfere with me I will kill you too." The 
lion was so taken aback by this boastful speech that he was 
afraid to tackle the hare alone, so he went off and called in a 
friend and said, " Come along and I will shew you where there 


is a lot of stock to be had for the taking," and he explained his 
meeting with the hare. The second lion expressed surprise at 
his requiring help, but the other replied, "That is so, but the 
owner is a fierce little beast; he has killed nine men in capturing 
the herd." The second lion however encouraged him and said, 
" Come along, let us both go and roar loudly at the hare and put 
on a fierce air, and we shall soon see if he really is the brave 
person he professes to be." 

They did so, with the result that the hare was terrified and 
hid in a bush and called out," Mutwa Ubiu (which is a nickname 
given to the lion by the hare), don't let us fight about this 
matter, but let us divide the spoil." The lion agreed, and they 
halved the live-stock. 

The hare was exceedingly angry at losing half his spoil, and 
sat down to consider how he could get the better of the lion and 
encompass his death by stratagem. When he had thought out 
his plan he went to the lion and said, " Now our difference is 
finished let us eat Kithito " {tule Kithito, that is to say, " let us 
go through the peace ceremony together"). The lion agreed, 
and the hare said that to carry out the ceremony to which he 
was accustomed they must make a big fire, so he and the lion 
went and collected firewood and then lit a fire. 

The hare then explained that they must both jump over the 
fire in turn, and he went back a little distance, took a run and 
jumped over the fire ; the fire had at that time not yet burnt up 
properly. He then went and sat down by the fire and said to 
the lion, " I have run a thorn into my foot which I must pull 
out, but you now go on and jump the fire." The fire by this time 
had burnt up and was much fiercer. The lion came along with 
a run, and as he got close to the fire the hare picked up some 
hot ashes and threw them into his eyes, and so the lion jumped 
short, fell into the fire, and was burned to death. 

The hare thus recovered his spoil and went off happily with 
his flocks and herds, and to this day the lion is so afraid of the 
hare that he is never known to kill and eat him. After a time 
however the herding of all his live-stock became a burden to the 
hare, so he eventually took it along and handed it over to a 
Mu-Kamba and said, "Herd my property for me, and I will turn 

H. 8 


up now and again and drink milk/' And so it is to this day, 
when cattle and goats are out grazing a hare will frequently 
come along and suckle the animals. 

Note. I have never seen this occur, but several natives, 
Swahilis as well as A-Kamba, assure me that it is quite true 
that hares do come and suckle domestic animals when out 

The Story of the Ngu or tortoise and the Kipalala or fish eagle 
{Haliaetus vocifer) Swahili-Furukombi. 

An old Mu-Kamba had a very comely daughter, and the 
tortoise came along and made her father an offer of marriage, 
and the eagle also sought the girl in marriage. To both these 
suitors the father replied, " The one who wins my daughter must 
start at daybreak for the coast and return to me before nightfall 
with some sea salt" 

And the eagle said to the tortoise, " Then of course the prize 
is mine, for you who only move at a snail's pace will never 
accomplish this task." The tortoise replied, " It is truly very 
difficult for me, but promise me one thing — agree to put off the 
contest for lo months," and the eagle, feeling quite sure of 
winning, agreed to do so. 

Next day, unknown to the eagle, he started off for the coast 
to fetch some salt ; it took him nearly five months to go and five 
to return, and he hid the salt in his house. Now during his 
journey to the coast he arranged with all the tortoises he met on 
the way to station themselves on a certain day at intervals along 
the route between Ukamba and the coast, one at each of the 
various camps, streams and water-holes, and he told them all to 
look out for the eagle as he flew past on the appointed day and 
when the eagle called out, "iV^w iko'' ("Tortoise, are you there ?"), 
each one was to reply in turn, ^'Ni iko " (" I am here "). On the 
appointed day the eagle started off on his flight to the sea and 
at intervals he called out, ^^Ngu iko,'' and at various points en 
route he received the arranged reply. He was very surprised to 
find the tortoise getting on so quickly, and still more so when 
he reached the shore and found a tortoise there in the act of 
collecting some salt. He however quickly picked up his own 



salt and flew back at full speed, and not knowing that the 
tortoise he had left on the beach was not his competitor, felt 
confident he had won. About 4 o'clock in the afternoon the 
original tortoise, who was on the look out, saw the eagle like a 
speck in the distance, so he emerged from where he had hidden 
throughout the day and waddled up the road to the village, 
announced his return from the coast and handed his packet of 
salt to the girl's father. 

The eagle then arrived and was very surprised and annoyed 
to find that he had been outwitted by the tortoise. The old 
Mu-Kamba suspected some trick and said to the eagle, " When 
you reached the coast did you see the tortoise ? " and the eagle 
said, " Yes," but I cannot think how he has managed to get here 
before me," and he was very angry and flew ofl" in a great 

And the old man said, " It is true you have won, but if I 
give you my daughter where will you live in safety, for the 
eagle is so angry that he is sure to find you out and kill you." 
The tortoise replied, " Oh ! that is all right, do not be anxious for 
my safety, my home will in future be in the water and the eagle 
will never get me." So he took the girl and dived into the 
water, and this is the origin of the tortoise spending a great 
part of his life in the water, which it does to this day. 

The cunning of the hare. 

Once upon a time the monkeys were very short of food 
so they went to see the hare and applied to him for help in their 

The hare took pity on them and told them to follow him 
and he led the way to a Kamba shamba (cultivated field). 
He looked over the hedge and saw a number of people watching 
the crops, so he went to a clearing some little way off and danced 
and sang ; the people were attracted by the noise and ran off* to 
see the entertainment, and while they were away the monkeys 
crept in and ate up the grain. 

The A-Kamba then realized that the hare had played them 
a trick so they seized him and threatened him with death. But 
the hare said, "Wait my friends, if you kill and eat me you will 



not get much meat ofif my small body and if you will only have 
patience I will repay you." 

The logic of this argument appealed to the people and they 
agreed; he therefore took the A-Kamba across the plains to the 
edge of Kikuyu country and told them to hide there. He espied 
a party of Kikuyu women a little way off and went up and talked 
to them, saying, that if they liked he would shew them a place 
where they could gather more salt. He led the women to near 
where the A-Kamba were hidden and gave a signal, and they 
seized the women and took them off to Ukamba. A little time 
after this event the A-Kikuyu caught the hare and would have 
killed him but he again promised to pay for his misdeeds if his 
life was spared and he took a party off to the confines of 
Ukamba, he went up and talked to a man herding some cattle 
and told him if he would come and look over a small hill near 
by he would shew him some A-Kikuyu who were lurking 
around, while the herdsman was thus decoyed away in one 
direction the party of A-Kikuyu drove off the cattle. He could 
never take in the A-Kamba after this, but they could never 
catch him again. 

The constant recurrence of these hare stories in native folk- 
lore makes one wonder why primitive man should have invested 
the hare with such extraordinary cunning, for the hare can 
hardly be said to be a beast which impresses itself greatly on 
the imagination of civilized mankind. 

MuneVs prophecy. 

Many years ago at a place called Mbuanii near Wathomi 
there lived a very powerful Mundu mue^ or medicine man, named 
Munei, and on one occasion a deputation of the local elders 
went to him and begged him to use his magic to produce rain. 

Munei agreed, and ordered them to bring a black ox and kill 
it at his village, saying that the rain would then fall. They 
carried out his wishes and killed the ox and the elders then 
received permission to feast on the meat. Some proceeded to 
cook the meat in pots and others to roast it over fires, before 
however the feast was over the rain came down with appalling 
intensity and Munei cried out to the elders, "Run to your 


villages but cover your heads with skins on the way so that the 
rain will not kill you," they did so and this torrential downpour 
continued till next morning. 

Munei then slept, and in his sleep he dreamt; he was so moved 
by his dream that he woke up, went to the gate of the village 
and called out in the dead of night to the neighbouring villages 
and summoned the elders They were much surprised at being 
summoned at that hour and went along to his village, he then 
addressed them and said: "Mark well my words, ye came to me 
for rain and the rain came, I then slept and while I slept God 
(Mulungu), by means of a dream ordered me to tell you a 
message and that I should then die and the message is this — 
that after a time a new kind of people will come into this land 
and you will know them by their red faces and red ears and 
when those people come you must listen to their words and 
obey them." Immediately after delivering this prophecy Munei 

Many years afterwards when the first Europeans appeared 
the elders met together and discussed the matter, and said, 
"Truly these are the reddish people Munei told us of." 

Several of the E. African tribes possess legends connected with 
prophecies as to the coming of the Europeans. Some twelve 
years ago a chief in Kavirondo was pointed out to the writer as 
having prophesied the coming of Europeans many years before 
they did reach there. 

Plate XIV 

(27) Masai cattle brand, Lugumai, sub-gilat Parseroi. 
Note ! Three lines for S . 

(28) Masai cattle brand of Lugumai, sub-gilat Kirikoris. 
Note ! Two lines for ? . 



So many observers have devoted their attention to the 
ethnology of this tribe that it may be considered rather rash 
to venture to write anything upon the subject, but for all that, 
it is believed that certain aspects have not yet received sufficient 
attention, and there are possibly a few facts that may have 
escaped notice. 

As is well known, the tribe is divided into groups founded 
on geographical districts, and these divisions are the dominant 
ones at the present day. Before however these became so 
prominent they were divided into what HoUis calls clans and 
families, which are variously termed gilat, orot, or Njomito. 
This classification is apparently in a state of decay, being over- 
whelmed as it were by the geographical divisions, so much so 
that a casual observer might live among the Masai for years 
and not know of its existence ; systematic enquiry however is 
able to demonstrate its presence in many of the unwritten 
conventions which govern the life of a Masai. 

No Masai wears the mark of his family or gilat^ so one 
meeting a stranger of his tribe can only discover his gilat by 
direct enquiry. The Masai cattle are however marked with a 
brand peculiar to each gilat^ but this is however not general, for 
only the cattle of the mortiak (old men) and the senior moran 
(warrior class) are so marked. A very exhaustive catalogue of 
cattle marks is given in Merker's book Die Mosaic and a few 


specimens are herewith published which have been obtained from ! 
personal observation. 

Merker extends the gilat marks to other objects besides 
cattle, viz. the arrows used by moruak. The northern Masai 
however deny that the arrows are ever so marked. || 

No explanation of the origin or significance of these designs 
has hitherto been published, and the writer has long been on 
the look out for some clue. Many of the Masai appear to be 
ignorant of the root of the designs, others will not trouble to 
explain the matter to Europeans. The discovery however of 
the fact of the persistent repetition of these designs in cycles 
was strong evidence that they were not mere arbitrary patterns. 
The present Purko moran, for instance, of right-handed or 
senior age (01 Egelishu's moran) inscribe on their shields the 
badge formerly used by Terere who was lutuno of the Nyangusi 
poror or age. Ol Aikotikush and his men, the Purko moran of the 
left-handed or junior age, wear the badge of 01 Ekoisikir, who 
was lutuno of the age junior to Terere. The laiok who will 
after the next eunoto ceremony become the right-handed branch 
of a new age or poror, will wear Ol Egelishu's badge. | 

It was hoped that these badges might turn out to be con- 
ventionalised representations of clan totems, but the fact that 
they follow the poror or age instead of the gilat effectually 
disposes of this idea, and no information is yet available as to 
why a generation of warriors should adopt a certain pattern, or 
why it should recur according to a particular rule. The list and 
description of the patterns themselves is given a little further on 
in the book. s 

What is believed to be a fairly comprehensive classification 
of the gilat of the northern Masai is appended to this chapter. 
It will be seen that these divisions have as a common basis two 
groups, viz. the Oodo Mongi (red bull) and Orok Kiteng (black 
cattle), and one cannot but suspect that these were originally 
totem istic in their origin, for the Masai still tell you that formerly 
all members of the Orok Kiteng group would use nothing for 
breeding purposes in their herds but black bulls, and similarly 
the Oodo Mongi would have nothing but red bulls; at the same 
time they have however no objection to killing respectively 


black or red bulls for food. Again one cannot help speculating 
whether the names of these two groups have any connection with 
the fact that the Masai recognize a black god and a red one, the 
former being the beneficent one and the latter malicious. 

The marriage laws among the Masai are profoundly affected 
by the various artificial restrictions introduced by the gilat, and 
it is the existence of these barriers which probably prevents 
these divisions from being completely blotted out by the 
geographical grouping. 

The restrictions governing marriage among the Masai are 
far from simple, for whether a man may marry a certain woman 
or not depends first on the age or generation {pi poror) to which 
the girl's father belongs, and secondly on the gilat of the girl's 

For instance, among the Mokesen family members of the 
two sections Rakita and Kipolonga cannot intermarry with 
individuals belonging to any of the other divisions of the gilat, 
but must marry with say a Taarosero or Molelyan. A member 
of any of the sub-divisions other than these two can intermarry 
with an individual belonging to any other sub-section of the 
Mokesen gilat. For instance, a Lema Keri can marry a L'Par- 
kinambe or Taarongojine, or a Le Kirikoris can marry a 
L'Taarongojine or Mbirrda, and so on. In the Taarosero family 
there are two sub-divisions Napowaru and Loomishir, and these 
intermarry freely. 

In the Molelyan family some sub-divisions of the gilat may 
intermarry and some not. Thus a Lema can only marry a 
Keri Ngishu, but a Keri Ngishu is able to marry in all other 
sub-divisions of the gilat except Eparsagaa. 

The Mamasita family among the northern Masai has no 
sub-divisions, so its members must marry into another gilat. 

In the L'Aiser family members of the Kitoe branch cannot 
marry members of the Partimaro group, but all the other sub- 
divisions of the gilat intermarry. 

The sub-divisions of the Logumai cannot intermarry. 

The members of the Aitayok gilat among the northern 
Masai is so small that members of this gilat always marry 
into another. 


These are the principal " forbidden degrees " imposed by the 

Now we come to the poror or generation. These divisions, 
which are alternately termed right- and left-handed and are 
connected with the circumcision, are confined entirely to the 
male sex. Women do not have poror, that is to say they are not 
circumcised or operated on in groups but at odd times when 
they are considered old enough. 

A man cannot marry the daughter of a man of his own age 
— he must marry the daughter of a man of a previous age to his 
own. Like many other races it is the custom among the Masai 
for a man to be provided with a temporary wife when he sleeps 
at a kraal he may stay at in the course of a journey. He can 
however only cohabit with the wife of a man of his own poror or 
age ; these relations are looked upon as quite lawful. The 
visitor always enquires if the gilat of the woman who is given 
him is one that he can lawfully marry into ; if he could lawfully 
marry the woman then the temporary relations are considered 
moral. E.g. if Masikonde went to visit a Molelyan of his own 
poror and the Molelyan offered Masikonde a wife who belonged 
to Logumai, he would refuse. (Masikonde belongs to the 
Parseroi which is a sub-^/to of the Logumai.) 

Another important point is that a woman's gilat is that of 
her father, not of her mother. There is no rule governing the 
distribution of the various gilat ; often members of as many as 
three gilat will be found in one moru Engang or a moran 
manyat ; in a moran manyat the unit is a sirito, and members 
of various gilat are often found in one sirito. 

When a man marries it is not lawful for him to marry two 
wives out of the same sub-family of the gilat. If for instance a 
Molelyan marries two Logumai women, he could not marry two 
Parseroi women but would take one say from the Parseroi and 
the other from Tootu. 

If a man has cattle stolen or lost the matter is taken up by 

the head of his sirito or company, which is based on the age or 

poror. But if a man is killed it is the business of the gilat to 

compensate the relations of the murdered man. Thus if a 

Logumai (Parseroi) killed a Molelyan it would fall upon all 

Plate XV 

(29) Masai cattle brand, L'Aiser, sub-gilat Parkinetti. 

(30) Masai cattle brand uf Taarusero gUal. JS'ote ! Two lines for ? 


the other branches of the Logumai to assist in compensating 
the relatives of the deceased Molelyan ; that is to say, the 
Tootu, Parkurito, Matosio, etc. would all have to contribute. 
If the murderer was wealthy he might pay all the necessary 
compensation to the relatives of the deceased out of his own 
herds, but the other branches of the gilat would still contribute 
and they would pay their share to the murderer. 

If a Logumai kills a Molelyan then the amount of the 
compensation would be fixed by the elders of another gilat^ 
say the Mokesen. If the attacking party called in the Mokesen 
and the injured party called in say the Taarosero, then the 
elders of these two gilat would settle the dispute. 

If the murder was unprovoked the compensation would 
probably be lOO head of cattle, if committed under great 
provocation lOO sheep. The compensation would be either 
sheep or cattle, not both. Only female or castrated animals 
may be paid as compensation. For the death of a woman the 
payment is not heavy, about 30 sheep, but if a man kills his wife 
he does not pay, as he has already paid for her. 

If a Masai kills a member of his own branch of gilat he pays 
the compensation himself, the other branches do not contribute. 
If a Masai kills a member of another branch of his own gilat 
the other branches contribute towards the compensation. Thus 
if a Parseroi kills a Parkurito the Tootu, Matosio and Shombo 
branches contribute towards the compensation. 

Now with regard to the distribution of the compensation it 
will be seen that all branches of the gilat a member of which 
committed the offence contribute their share, and upon a similar 
principle each branch of the gilat to whom the murdered man 
belongs receives a share of the compensation ; the father of the 
deceased will generally receive half to two-thirds of the com- 
pensation, the remainder will be divided among the moruak 
(elders) of the various branches of the gilat. 

For instance, if a Parseroi kills a Parsekero the other 
branches of the Molelyan gilat, viz. Lema, Keri Ngishu, Epar- 
sagaa, etc., will all receive a share of the compensation. The 
Laibon or medicine man does not receive a share. This palaver 
does not take place for two years after the killing. Until the 



compensation is fixed up the murderer cannot eat with tl 
relatives of his victim. 



(red bull) 



Il-mokesen ...^ 


{ Le-Seko 



M-Birrda (this clan marks its cattle 
by slitting the under side of the 
ear, the piece of the ear which 
hangs down after this operation 
is called M-Birrda). Ol-Aig- 
wanan, Rasiti, belongs to this 









L-Oiger (refers to the small slits 
made along a cow's ear, this is 
the cattle mark of this clan) 

Loomishir Olengoilii (the black 
mark on the flank of the 
Thomson Gazelle) 

Le-Napowaru (hyaena) 

Le-Lema (01-Oegelishu 
this clan) 




Il-Keri Ngishu (spotted cattle), 01- 
Aigwanon El-Morak belongs to 
this clan 


( (None of El-Purko belong to this 
\ branch, no sub-divisions) 

belongs to 



^ The Mamasita gilat is kept separate because among the Kapotei Masai this 
gilat is considered to be a subdivision of the Molelyan and among the Purko Masai 
it is considered as a branch of the Mokesen. 




(black cattle)^ 




Le-Parseroi (Kilengo and Masi- 
konde belong to this clan) 



\ Le-Shombo 



L-Siria (the 
belong to 

( L-Partimaro 








Dalalogotok of Nyeri 
this clan) 

(Ol-Onana and Sa- 
bori belong to this 


Names of Children among the Masai. 


A Masai child generally does not receive a name until it is 
about two years old — the accepted sign is when teeth appear in 
the upper and lower jaw, two or three in each jaw. About the 
fifth, sixth to eighth day of the moon are suitable days for the 
naming. The father calls an elder of a former poror or age, not 
necessarily of the same gilat^ to his kraal, and this old person 
names the child. If it is a girl the mother calls an old woman 
to name the child. A girl must not be named on the fifth of 
the month but on the fourth day of the moon. Similar to a 
male child it must not be named in 01-adalo. There are certain 
elders who will name children in the month of 01-adalo, but they 
are uncommon. 

The names given are usually those of elders of old time. 
It is customary for the elder who is called in to mention two 
names and then to settle on one. It is considered a very good 
thing for the elder to bring a small child of his own with him 
when he goes to a village to name a child, and in the same way 
an old woman going to name a female child will bring a little 
girl with her. 

The details of the ceremony are as follows. In the morning 
an old woman calls out in the kraal : To-day we want to perform 
the Endomono ceremony connected with naming the child of 
"so and so," viz. Eo Endomono. The father then gives the 
women of the village a dark red sheep, which is killed at the 
door of the mother of the child. The old women then toast 
the meat by a fire (it must not be cooked in a pot) and then eat 

Plate XVI 

(31) Uasingishu tribe cattle brand, Nyaya gilat. Totem — lion. 

(32) Uasingishu tribe cattle brand, Siria gilat. 
Totem — Indicator-bird (Enjoshowi). 


it; the mother of the child does not partake. The head and 
feet of the sheep are not roasted, they are given to a woman 
belonging to another village; they must not be eaten in the 
village where the ceremony takes place. Then one of the 
women shaves the heads of the mother and the child. The head 
is massaged with a mixture of water and milk to make the 
shaving easy. After the shaving the heads are anointed with 
sheep fat and red earth ; the earth is called Engoina. In the 
evening the mother milks the cows, carrying her child on her 
back. When she has finished milking the elder choosing the 
name of the child comes and names it. This is the custom 
among the northern Masai. 

After the youth is circumcised and becomes a moran he 
receives a nickname from his fellows, e.g. 01-gisoi-lai, the one 
to whom I have given a ring ; Paa-Kiteng, the receiver of a cow. 
Only the persons who gave him the ring or the cow would call 
him by this name. Other moran would call him by the name 
of his father. Old women would call him by the name of his 
childhood. When a man becomes a inoru and marries he is 
generally called by the name of his first child, whether male or 
female. When a woman marries her husband renames her, 
either giving one of the nicknames of the poror or age or one 
of the names particularly appertaining to women. When she 
marries she is often referred to as the mother of " so and so," 
the name of her first child. 

A man often calls his wife if she came from near where he 
lives Na Tahana, " the one from near by," or Nadungwangop, 
" the one from afar," if she came from a distance. 

If a Masai asks another his name he must not give the name 
he received in his childhood but his father's name, viz. I am the 
son of " so and so." But if a man calls out a man's childhood 
name it is not wrong to answer to it. 

Shield patterns among the Masai. 

These patterns follow the geographical divisions of the tribe, 
not the family divisions ; thus the Purko carry one badge and 
the Matapato another badge. The junior or left-handed 


{kedyanye) moran generally have a different badge to the right- 
handed or senior (Jatene) moran of the generation or age {poror). 
The designs or marks on a shield are called sirata^ and each, 
has a name. The only designs in use at present among th 
Masai of British East Africa are: — 

1. Sirata ol orasha. Plate XIX. Said to be derived from 
the markings of a bird called Naitolya, which is the crested 
crane {^Balearica gibber iceps). This design is used by the follow-^ 
ing sub-tribes : 

Sigirari senior, 
Loitai senior, 
Damat senior. 

2. Sirata Sambu. Plate XVIII. Said to be derived from 
the markings of the zebra. This design is used by the following : 

Purko senior, 

Gekonyuki senior, 


It is said to have been introduced by Laiboso, an ex-laigwanan 
of the generation called II Peles. It is probably more mimicked 
than any other design by the Uasingishu and Kikuyu. 

3. Sirata ol ebor. Plate XVIII. The white space in the 
centre of the shield is said to represent the inside of a warrior's 
kraal — ol ebor means the bare space inside a kraal. This was 
originally the design used by the Gekonyuki senior but is now 
used by the Matapato senior, Kapotei senior and Dogilani senior. 

4. Sirata ol enapita legal, Plate XIX. So called because 
one side is red and one side white. It is said to have been 
produced by reversing half of the design called ol ebor. It is 
used by the Gekonyuki junior, Matapato junior, and Kapotei. 

5. Sirata ol olorika or ol engerere. Plate XX. Supposed 
to have been derived from a particular kind of spotted cattle. 
It is also sometimes called the "design of the stool." It is 
carried by the Purko junior. 

6. Sirata el engameta. Plate XX. Said to have been 
derived from the conventional chevron bead design on the belt 
of an ndito or young unmarried girl. It is said to have been 
originally designed by Naiterukop. It is now only used by El 
Kereao, a small group of the Purko senior. 



Plate XVII 

(33) Uasingishu tribe cattle brand, Mogishu gilat. 
Totem — Blue Starling (Mogishui). 

(34) Uasingishu tribe cattle brand, Masarunye gilat. Totem — hyaena. 


7. One occasionally sees a large patch of red painted on 
one side of a shield. This is the sirata el langarbwali^ and is 
the badge of a brave man who has distinguished himself in 
action. It can only be added with the permission of the head 
laigwanan. It is supposed to be derived from a mass of clotted 
blood often found inside a dead ox. Plate XIX. 

Cattle Brands, 

Cattle among the Masai and Uasingishu are marked both 
on the flank and on the ears. These marks vary according to 
the gilat or family clan of the owner and not the geographical 
divisions. Examples of some of the more notable brands are 
published in this volume. 

Brand of Laitayok gilat. 

Brand of Lodogishu gilat. 

It will be noticed that among the Masai the heifers and 
cows are generally marked with a double line and the bulls 
with three lines. The people offer no explanation of this 

In addition to the clan mark, cattle often bear a private 
brand of the owner; note the brand on the right shoulder of 
the specimen of the Logumai-Parseroi brand. 

As each of the family clans of the Uasingishu has its own 
totem it was hoped that there might be some relation between 
the totem and the brand of the clan, but nothing of the kind is 
evident and the origin of the designs of the brands is a mystery 
which yet remains to be solved. See Plates XIV, XV, XVI, 





The history of the early colonization of the central highlands, 
or Kenya area would if more data existed prove to be one of 
the most interesting chapters in East African ethnography. 
Unfortunately up to now, owing to the absence of specially 
trained observers, the limited opportunities of the few observers 
who have tried to pierce the veil, and the absence of any 
documentary evidence, but little progress has been made. 
Enough has however been discovered to demonstrate the 
desirability of further research. 

To go back to very early times, the existence of a stone 
age in this part of Africa is now fully proved, although to what 
geological horizon the implements should be referred is not yet 
settled. Obsidian arrow heads and scrapers are of common 
occurrence in the alluvials of the Rift Valley, and a worked flint 
from the Tana Valley gravels is recorded. A finely shaped stone 
bowl was recently discovered near Lake Naivasha and two arti- 
ficially perforated stones, evidently the heads of prehistoric stone 
clubs, have been dug up near theTeita Mountains ^ As the country 
becomes more settled up by Europeans many other relics will 
undoubtedly be discovered. A few weeks' careful digging in 
the extensive Elgon caves might reveal many implements, and 
it is to be hoped that now the general topography of this 
country is so well known, explorers from England will turn 
their attention to detailed work of this character. 

Besides the Elgon caves there are unexplored caves on the 
Nandi escarpment, on the Uasingishu plateau, on the Athi_ 
plains, etc., all of which might repay the investigator. 

1 See Plate XXVI. 

Plate XVIII 

(35) Masai. Sirata Sanibii. Badge of Purko senior, also adopted by Gekonyuki 
senior and Loitai, Damat and Dalalogotok senior. 

{36) Masai. Sirata ol-ebor. Originally badge of Gekonyuki senior: 
but now that of Matapato senior. 


Whether the manufacturers of the stone implements were 
the ancestors of the Torobo (or Dorobo) or Oggiek (or O Kiek) 
or not can hardly be proved until specimens of the crania of 
some of the stone age men come to light. From native legends 
however it appears that previous to the arrival of the Masai 
from the north and the A-Kikuyu from the south and south- 
east the whole of the East African highlands was inhabited by 
considerable numbers of the aboriginal hunting people. 

The Nilotic and Bantu invasions however scattered these 
folk ; some sank into the position of serfs to the dominant 
tribes, and others hid away in the forests of the Mau, the 
Sattima or Aberdare chain, and Kenya and their descendants 
are to be found there to this day. Another factor that appears 
to have had a great effect on this distribution of the aboriginal 
hunters is the fact that there is considerable evidence that in 
comparatively recent times the plateau between Mount Kenya 
and the Aberdares was more densely forested than at present. 
Patches of this forest still survive on the tops of small hills all 
over that area — this was probably due to the great extent of the 
ice cap on Kenya at that time — a factor which could not fail to 
profoundly affect the climate. During the last few centuries 
however the great enemy of the forests has been the spread of 
the fertile A-Kikuyu, who have steadily carved their way north 
and north-west, ruthlessly cutting down the forest year by year 
as it became necessary for them to obtain more ground for 

With the disappearance of the forests from this area the 
elephants migrated to other habitat and the hunting people 
followed the elephants. In the early days of the A-Kikuyu 
occupation of the country between Ngongo Bagas and the 
Laikipia plateau, they were only able to hold their own against 
the Masai by the natural defences afforded by the forests, and 
they were careful to leave a ring of several miles of forest 
between their outer villages and the plains upon which the 
Masai roamed. The Masai spearmen were at a great disad- 
vantage in bush and forest country and could be easily picked 
off by the arrows of the A-Kikuyu ; consequently when the 
A-Kikuyu worked as far north as where Nyeri Station now 


Stands, they made no effort to go on and occupy the Laikipia 
plains but flowed eastwards to the flanks of Kenya and 
gradually occupied the southern and eastern slopes of that 
mountain, and now Mweru marks the limit of their expansion ; 
in the Mweru region they apparently came into contact with, 
and absorbed a colony of people of Masai stock who had 
abandoned their pastoral life and settled down to agriculture. 
It is very possible too that they absorbed remnants of other 
tribes, people of Semitic origin, migrants from Bworana 

The Masai invasion had a very disintegrating effect on the 
older occupants of the area under consideration. A tribe with a 
coherent military organization suddenly appeared on the scene 
and raided tribe after tribe. In a few generations their prestige 
became so great that the very name of Masai almost caused a 
panic : not that the Masai were individually so much braver 
than the tribes they raided, but simply owing to the sudden 
nature of their attacks and the fact that they worked with a 
rude discipline under recognized leaders who had definite tactics. 
The fact too that the moran or warrior class was continually 
segregated in kraals, and always ready for war, proved a per- 
petual menace to their more peaceful neighbours. Thus it 
happens that we find many of the surrounding people have 
imitated the Masai war dress and even adopted Masai customs 
and rules of life ; even at the present day, when Masai prestige 
has much declined, one will find Kikuyu warriors decked out in 
the head dresses, arm ring {erap of Masai), ear plug {gulalem of 
Masai), leg bells and spear of a Masai moran. Not that they 
buy these from the Masai, they make them themselves, but they 
are most distinct mimics of the Masai articles. The A-Kikuyu 
often indeed go to the length of imitating the patterns or badges 
on the Masai shields, never however very accurately, probably 
on account of its being done from memory. 

All this mimicry of Masai habits, etc., is an unfortunate 
thing from the ethnological point of view, as undoubtedly many 
interesting old customs and incidentally legends and folk lore 
connected with them have been blotted out by the adoption of 
those imported and superimposed. In the same way, during the 


last few years, contact with Europeans and the partial adoption 
of European and Swahili dress is in many parts of the country 
leading to the extinction of many interesting native articles of 
use, attire and ornament, and one would strongly recommend 
some determined effort being made by our ethnographical 
museums to obtain collections of these things while they can. 





A-Kikuyu the writer has not attempted a systematic survey of 
this tribe, but through the kind assistance of several of his 
colleagues (viz. Messrs Hope, Haywood, McClure and Barrett) 
has been able to collect some notes on the system of land tenure 
and the laws of inheritance, etc., in vogue among the A-Kikuyu. 
These are now being published in the hope that the information 
may be of some value to civil officers working among the tribe, 
and in order that people may realise that the term "native 
rights" has a concrete meaning in the mind of the native 

As far as can be discovered the Kikuyu tribe as it stands 
to-day represents the fusion of many different tribes and even 
several races, and out of this mixture owing to intermarriage 
and the subtle influences of environment what may be called a 
composite type is undoubtedly being evolved ; as a parallel to 
this may be quoted what is known as the American type, which 
is the resultant of the greatest mixture of European nationalities 
in a new environment which the world has seen in historic times. 

The dominant basis of the Kikuyu tribe is Bantu ; some say 
that this section is composed of offshoots from tribes on the E. 
and N.E. of Kenia, viz. Suka or Shuka, Shagishu and Ngembi. 
It is also maintained that the Agachiko and Achera clans are 
of Kamba origin, the Chaga tribe of Kilimanjaro is said to be 
represented by Aizaga, a branch of the Digo tribe from near 
Mombasa is also said to have settled in the Tana valley. 
Kikuyuland is one of enormous fertility, and suffers less from 

Plate XIX 

(37) Masai. Strata ol-orasha. (A) Sigirai, Lotai, and Damat junior 

all use this badge. 
(B) Strata ol-enapeta legal used by Gekonyuki, Kapotei and Matapato junior. 

(38) Masai. Strata el langarbwali. The blotch on the right side and the star 

are both marks of bravery. 


famine than perhaps any other part of British East Africa. 
It is believed that the various immigrations nearly all took 
place during periods of famine ; the people streamed off to 
where they could get food and then permanently squatted there. 

The Masai stock is also represented in varying degrees in 
different parts of the country. Some of the chiefs are half-bred 
Masai, Kibarabara is even said to be a pure-bred Laikipiak 
Masai ; his wives are however Kikuyu, so the fusion may be 
seen to be still in progress. 

There are stories in existence of Galla settlements in 
Kikuyu land as recently as 60 to 70 years ago. They were 
eventually expelled by force and do not appear to have left 
any great morphological impression on the people. 

Last of all, and probably most important, must be mentioned 
the infusion of Okiek blood. The true Okiek, Asi or Azi, the 
original aboriginal inhabitants of the plateau between the 
Aberdare range and Kenia, were a scattered race and were 
without any great social coherence, so offered but slight resist- 
ance to fusion with the invading Bantu people, but once fused 
the strain exercised a profound influence on the product resultant 
to the fusion as the Okiek are a people of considerable natural 

Note, The Athi River or Azi as the natives call it probably 
derives its name from the Azi tribe. 

The Kikuyu occupation of the country south of the Chania 
River only dates back some 80 to icx) years. At that period 
the forest land, in what is now called Kyambu district, was 
effectively occupied by the Okiek and any open land by a 
branch of the Masai, an offshoot of the main body of that 
nation which then occupied the grazing grounds around Kili- 
manjaro. This offshoot of the Masai extended as far east as 
the Yatta plateau, E and N.E. of Donyo Sapuk, and the 
A-Kamba have stories of their relations with them. 

Eventually however internal dissension broke out among 
these Masai and their power was further broken by losses 
inflicted on them by the A-Kamba of Mwala and Kanjalu. 
The consequent loss of prestige encouraged the A-Kikuyu 
under an ambitious chief called Katirirnu, to move south and 


found settlements along the edge of the forest, but they com- 
menced their usual policy of cutting down areas of forest to 
make shambas (gardens); this brought them into conflict with 
the forest dwellers and they frequently fought on this account. 
The Okiek however, finding themselves unable to stop the 
Kikuyu advance, soon made friends with them and many of 
the Kikuyu chiefs and others took the daughters of the Okiek 
to wife — the chief Karuri is the offspring of such a marriage^ 
Once peace was made the Kikuyu chiefs appear to have dealt 
fairly with their allies, for all are agreed that it became the 
custom to buy forest land from the Okiek when it was desired 
to extend the plantation area. The purchase was arranged by 
the chiefs and elders and payment usually took the form of 
goats ; as many as 300 goats were often paid over for pieces of 
forest. A piece of forest thus bought was then portioned out 
by the chief among the members of his clan. It is the custom 
for each shareholder after clearing the forest on his piece of 
land to present the chief with some beer and later on when his 
crop is half grown he makes the chief a present of a sheep. 
The members of the first generation who clear pieces of forest 
land are said to hold their land at the will of the chief, and he 
can dispossess them for offences against tribal law ; compensa- 
tion for growing crops would however have to be made. After the 
first generation this right of compensation would appear to lapse. 

Tenure and In/ieritance, 

Individual title to land only applies to land which has 
descended to the owner as agricultural land, and all such land 
may be said to be entailed, for on the death of the owner it 
passes to his eldest son. It is however the custom for the 
eldest son to allot portions of the estate to his younger brothers. 

If a man dies without male issue the family estate would 
pass to the nearest male relation. Nothing of the nature of a 
death duty is levied by the chief upon the occasion of thcij 
succession to an estate by the son, but the elders of the clan 
assemble at the village of the deceased and discuss the division 
of the estate and advise upon the amount of the younger sons' 

1 Portrait of Karuri on Plate XXIV. 





portions. A feast of mutton and beer is provided for these 

Women cannot be said to have any rights to land or stock, 
but are often recognized as trustees or guardians of property 
during the minority of their male children. Should any such 
children die in infancy the estate reverts to the nearest male 

Generally speaking, the chief however is the guardian of any 
orphans who are minors, and cultivates such land as they are 
entitled to, and hands it over to them when they reach a mature 
age. The chief in this connection would be the minor chief-head 
of a clan or the senior chief on a ridge. 

There is a curious form of tenure conferred by marriage, 
viz. a man has the right to cultivate a piece of land on the 
estate of his father-in-law ; such a holding would be considered 
as his property during his lifetime but would not descend to 
his heirs, for at death it would revert to the father-in-law or his 

The boundaries of estates are mutually agreed upon and 
marked out by adjoining landowners. They meet and kill a 
sheep ; they then take numbers of cuttings of bushes which are 
suitable for the purpose (thorny Solanum, etc.), smear the ends 
of the cuttings in the contents of the stomach and plant them 
along the boundary agreed upon. The meat of the sheep is 
then eaten by the landowners and their friends. 

If a landowner goes away and allows his plantations to revert 
to waste, it is said that the chief can after six months or so con- 
fiscate his title and give the land to another tribesman. 

No sale or donation of land is considered valid unless it 
receives the formal consent of the chief Even if, however, a 
landowner sells his land with the chief's consent, the chief 
appears to still exercise manorial rights over the land, for it is 
said that he can dispossess the new-comer if he seriously offends 
the tribal law. 

Every clan has its grazing lands which are common to all 
the members, and adjacent clans often graze their stock on each 
other's common land. 

The chief is however considered to be within his rights if he 


disposes of part of the common for agricultural purposes. SinciP 
the advent of the Government administration, this right has 
however fallen into abeyance, as waste and common grazing 
land is now looked upon as the property of the State. 

The A-Kikuyu formerly bought and sold land to a con- 
siderable extent, and 10 years ago the approximate price foi 
one acre of land under maize averaged about two goats, but a^ 
similar area of sugar cane, bananas or yams would be four or 
five goats. At the present day however, owing to the presence 
of white settlement and the greater market for produce, sales 
are very rare and any land that may be sold commands according 
to native standards very high prices. 

In some of the more thickly populated parts of Kikuyu, " 
north of the Tana, cultivated land is let to tenants on the rental 
system ; the tenant usually pays a sheep per season of six months 
for a sJiamba of the size that one or two women can cultivate. 

In the above account the clan is referred to as a unit and, up 
to comparatively recent times, each clan is said to have inhabited 
its own location. In recent years, however, the clans have 
become much broken up and intermingled and the result has 
been to substitute the ridge for the clan. Kikuyu country is, 
generally speaking, a series of steep parallel ridges with streams 
between ; these valleys vary from 100 to 300 ft. deep, and form 
very definite boundaries. It has thus come about that each 
ridge keeps more or less to itself with its own chiefs, its own 
plantations and its own grazing grounds. flfl 

It is now necessary to consider the tribal law with regard to 
the inheritance of live-stock and movable property. The general 
procedure is as follows : The brothers of the deceased take his 
widows as their perquisite ; if the eldest son of the deceased is a 
minor his eldest uncle acts as his guardian and as trustee of his 
property until he takes a wife ; the stock, etc., is then handed 
over to him. The brothers of the deceased have no claim 01 
the estate. 

The sisters of the deceased are cared for until married by' 
the eldest son, or if he is not of age the elder brother of the 
deceased. The whole of the dowry brought by them into the 
family by marriage is the property of the eldest son. 


Plate XX 

(39) Masai. Sirata el engameta. Badge of El Kereao, a branch of Purko senior, 
the star-shaped mark is called ol longno. It is a badge of bravery, and is 
principally used by the Masai. 

(40) Masai. Sirata ol-olorika or ol-engerere. Badge of the Purko junior. 


The eldest son of the deceased takes all the property 
when his brothers reach a marriageable age ; it is his duty 
however to supply the wherewithal in the shape of live-stock 
to purchase a wife. 

The eldest son succeeds his father as head of the family and, 
in due course, when his brothers have taken to themselves wives 
becomes the head of the village in which they all live ; the 
live-stock which has descended to him and its natural increase 
is entirely at his disposal. It is however incumbent upon him 
to place live-stock at the disposal of his brothers when any one 
of them wishes to pay for an additional wife. 

Kikuyu Magic, 

In much the same way as the A-Kamba detect criminals, 
etc., by use of the magic medicine known as the Kithito^ the 
A-Kikuyu use the KithathL 

The Kitliathi used in Southern Kikuyuland is a curiously 
shaped piece of reddish burnt clay, roughly tubular in shape, and 
with four circular holes in its circumference. The following 
rough sketch will make it clear: 

This object is in charge of a certain old man of the tribe 
who always keeps it buried in the bush at some distance from 
a village. It is so powerful that it must never be taken into a 
house or the result would be disastrous to the inmates ; it must 
never be touched by human hands but is lifted up on a stick 
and deposited in a pocket made of dry banana leaves. The 
parcel is then tied up and it can be safely carried from place 
to place. 


The writer was fortunate enough some time ago to be 
present at a trial by the Kithathi. 

About that time several natives had died somewhat suddenly 
and unaccountably, and the idea arose that a certain individual 
had been poisoning his neighbours. Suspicion appears to have 
been fixed on this man because he had been known to have 
dabbled in magic for some time and he had recently made a 
journey to Embu and taken a bullock with him. He had how- 
ever not been seen to bring anything back from Embu in 
exchange for the bullock ; he moreover would not deign to 
explain to his neighbours the object of his visit, so popular 
opinion became convinced that he had bought poison with his 
bullock and it was suggested that he should be killed by the 
tribe. The chiefs however demurred as they foresaw that this 
would make trouble with the District Commissioner, so they 
decided to perform the Kithathi ceremony. 

The appointed day arrived and the chiefs and elders for 
miles round assembled under a big Mwerothi or Mwerosi tree 
and seated themselves in a semi-circle about lO yards from the 
tree ; each person except the accused twined a sprig of Muken- 
geria round his neck to protect him against the potent "medicine" 
of the Kithathi (the Mukengeria is a common creeping grass 
with a light blue flower). 

A forked stick of dead wood was stuck in the ground under 
the tree by an elder who conducted the ceremony and the 
Kithathi was placed in the fork. The accused then discarded 
his garments and took lO twigs of Mugeri and Munyururu 
wood; he took two twigs in his left hand and with that hand 
supported the Kithathi on the forked branch, with his right he 
took a twig and placed it in one of the holes of the Kithathi and 
then swore on the Kithathi as to his innocence. He would dis- 
card that twig and then make another statement, and so on till 
he had used up all the twigs. The following are the sort of 
declarations he made : 

"If I killed the persons I am accused of killing (mentioning 
them by name) may the Kithathi kill me." 

" If I went to buy medicine (in this case poison was meant) 
may I die." 


** If any Mu-Kikuyu goes to buy poison from the A-Kamba 
may he die." 

" If anyone in the district takes lies to the European (meaning 
the Government) to get his neighbour into trouble, may he die," 
etc., etc. 

The last quoted is rather curious as it shews that the accused 
was endeavouring to divert the magic power of the Kithathi 
from himself to the gossips who had been instrumental in causing 
him to be subjected to the ordeal. 

The mental excitement of the accused was intense. He 
quivered and perspired with the strain of the ordeal and the 
spectators were visibly moved by the ceremony, and it was 
really very impressive as everyone was so deeply in earnest 
over it. 

At the close of the ceremony the presiding elder gave him a 
little white china clay (^Ira is the Kikuyu name), he ate a little 
of this and rubbed a little on his hands; until he was thus 
purified from the contact with the Kithathi he could not go and 
eat. The accused then left the place alone and everyone v/as 
careful not to touch or brush up against him. 

The elders stated that for three months after going through 
the ordeal he would not be allowed to go and sleep in his village 
or to cohabit with his wife, but would have to live alone in a 
tiny hut away in the shambas (plantations), and if he died in the 
meantime all would know that he was guilty. 

After the accused left the spectators waited a few minutes 
until a goat had been killed in their path. This was done and 
the contents of its stomach poured out on the road ; the people 
then marched off in single file and when they came to the 
sacrifice they carefully rubbed their feet in the half-digested 
grass and went their way freed from the dread influence of the 
Kithathi. No information is yet available as to whether the 
accused died during or survived his three months' probation \ 

Enquiries were made as to the history of the Kithathi, but 
beyond the fact that an elder of about 70 said it was used in his 
grandfather's time, and that it was said to have originally come 

^ The man is still alive (this is written 12 months after the ceremony) and has now 
enlisted as a policeman. 


from Ukamba, little was discovered. The late Capt. Merker, 
however, informed the writer that the Chaga people on Kili- 
manjaro use similar magic objects; in that region some are 
however anthropomorphic. 

Description of Kikuyu Oath Ceremony. 

This is the most solemn oath known to the A-Kikuyu and is 
called Ku'ringa-thengi and was imposed at the instance of the 
head chief who wished to induce them to fulfil certain obligations 
which of late they had neglected. 

The ceremony was performed by an old man named Kuria 
wa Karuga of the Mu-withiageni or Aizia-geni clan. It is 
said to be necessary that it be performed by a member of this 
clan or one of the Amberi clan : members of the Agachiko, 
Achero, or Mwithaga clans are not allowed to conduct the 

A male goat of not less than two or three colours had its 
four legs all tied together in a bunch by means of a green 
withy, a number of twigs of certain plants were gathered and 
then packed in between the legs and the body of the animal. 
The twigs were of the following plants : 

Kikuyu name of plant 

Botanical name where identified 


Matura thongu 

Emilia sp. 

Solanum sp. (the hairy stemmed variety) 

Solanum (the common African species 
called Tunguja by Swahilis) 






These preparations being complete all the participators in 
the oath moved to the windward of the animal — all except the 
elder who conducted the ceremony. The elder in question then 
took a large stone and beat the legs of the animal until he con- 
sidered they were broken, all the time calling out that any who 
broke the oath would have their legs broken in a similar way. 
He then enumerated the obligations which it was essential they 


should fulfil. He then hammered the spine of the animal and 
finally beat in the skull with a stone, continually haranguing the 
assembly and condemning them to a similar fate if they broke 
the oath by omitting to fulfil the duties he enumerated. 

It is considered very deadly to stand down wind from the 
goat while this ceremony is going on. 

The assembled crowd then marched off chanting and about 
half a mile down the road another speckled male goat had been 
slaughtered and the blood and contents of the stomach were 
spread on the path ; each member of the assembly had to tread 
in this with his bare feet and on every one who did this the oath 
was considered binding. 

The second goat was killed by its stomach being opened. 

Neither of the sacrificial animals was eaten but left in the 
bush to be devoured by hyaenas. 

The following is an authentic account of an exhibition of the 
powers of a Kikuyu medicine fnan named Kamiri of the A njiru 

Some little time ago at a certain station among the 
A-Kikuyu a case of cattle theft was being inquired into — a 
cow had been stolen from a European settler. Certain indi- 
viduals had been arrested on suspicion but direct evidence was 
not forthcoming, and it would have been necessary to release 
the accused. While the proceedings were however in progress 
Kamiri, the medicine man, arrived and the officer conducting the 
enquiry asked him if he could assist in unravelling the matter. 
He consented to try his powers but said he would require some 
twigs from certain trees. Accordingly the head chief present 
sent a man to cut these twigs and Kamiri directed that a twig 
should be allotted to represent each person suspected to be 
implicated in the crime. 

To prevent any possibility of collusion the European officer, 
the head Kikuyu chief and the interpreter retired to the officer's 
quarters and there allotted each twig and marked each one, at 
the same time writing down which mark referred to which 
person, thus : 



Name of tree from 
which twig was derived 

Person to whom allotted 

One notch 

Two notches ... 
Three notches 
Four notches... 
Five notches ... 


Complainant's herd boy Karan- 

ja, not present at enquiry 
Kogi wa Kithambu 
Kamuchove wa Koivita 

Witnesses for prosecution 




Mutongo ( 

Three other twigs were allotted to the names of various 
natives who might possibly have been implicated. 

When this was completed the party returned to where 
Kamiri was waiting. The twigs, eight in number, were handed 
to Kamiri in a bundle; he picked them up one by one and 
waved them about. He then selected three out of the bundle 
and placed them apart, saying that the other five had no bearing 
on the case. 

Then out of the three he picked up one and said, " This is 
the thief" (upon reference to the list it was found that this was 
Karanja's twig). He then took up the second (Kogi's twig) 
and said, " This man bought the cow from the thief" He then 
took up twig No. 3 (Kamuchove's twig) and said, "This man 
was cognizant of the theft." 

Kogi, who was one of the suspected persons, immediately 
confessed to having bought the cow from the thief for six goats 
and described the way the theft was committed and confirmed 
the fact that Karanja was the actual thief. Karanja was arrested 
that night and confessed his guilt. The carcase of the cow was 
found at Kogi's village and brought in on the following morning. 
Kogi had killed the cow to avoid detection. 

The European officer was present the whole time and took 
special care to prevent any possibility of collusion between 
Kamiri, the head Kikuyu chief or any other persons present, 
and Kamiri undoubtedly had no knowledge as to which twig 
was allotted to which person. 

The trial is called Kiitagura. Kamiri brought with him a 
small gourd, called Mbuthu, containing a white chalky powder, 
called Ira^ and he rubbed some on his navel, and then rubbed 


Plate XXI 

(41) Dancing shields (Ndomi) of A-Kikuyu around Kenya. 

(42) Reverse sides of above. The left arm is passed through the boss at the bottom 
of the shield, the hole in the centre is to enable the dancer to look through. 
The designs are said to be arbitrary on the part of each individual. The shields 
are only used by youths in the dances held prior to circumcision. 


some down one side and round the mouth of a large gourd, 
called Mwanu, which contained a large number of pebbles and 
one leopard claw ; the mouth of this gourd was stopped up with 
a dried cow's tail, called Kichuthu. He did not however use the 
pebbles at all during the ceremony. 

After the trial he was given a sheep, and he took a small 
quantity of a black powder he had with him, called Mwarisa^ 
being derived from a tree of that name. He placed a little on 
the tongue of the sheep, and then made a small incision into one 
of the hind legs of the sheep, and into this incision he also placed 
a small quantity of the powder. He then proceeded to blow into 
this incision and in a few minutes the sheep swelled up to about 
double its size and died. 

A few weeks later a second trial of Kamiri's powers was 
made. He was asked if he could tell when the writer was going 
away for a journey ; he said he would try. Four marked sticks 
were given to him ; the stick with one mark represented the first 
week, the one with two marks the second week, and so on ; he 
was not told which stick represented which week, but merely 
that each stick represented a week. He took the sticks and 
waved them about and then threw away numbers two and four ; 
he then said that the writer would probably travel in the weeks 
represented by sticks numbers one and three. He broke a piece 
off the stick of the third week to make it good. The writer had 
no idea at the time when his next journey would take place, 
but absolutely unforeseen events occurred which necessitated his 
starting on a journey on the sixth day of the third week. This 
journey could not possibly have been foreseen by Kamiri, being 
connected with a supposed mineral discovery. 

This is doubtless pure coincidence, but coming on the top of 
the other incident it is considered interesting to record. 

H. 10 



MOGOGODO or Mokogodo is the name of a small tnl 
inhabiting the foothills on the N. side of Kenia. It is believed 
to be the scattered remnant of a migration from the north, and 
their history and language would well repay further study. 

Their former name is said to be II Mwesi. They formerly 
lived in a district called Pore on the slopes of Mount Kenia and 
later on in a district of Mweru to the N.E. of the mountain but 
were driven out by the Laikipiak, who fought them at a place 
called Lewa, and the tribe is now greatly scattered ; some live 
among the Sambur and others among the hills called Doinyo 
Longishu and at Mgur Nanyori in the little known country 
between the Euaso Nyiro and Kenya. They are said to have 
always been a pastoral people, and they know nothing of 

Probably from long intercourse with the Sambur they have 
adopted many Masai customs. The men are divided according 
to their age into laiok^ moran and moruak ; they circumcise and 
hdiweporor or right- and left-handed generations on the principle 
of the Masai, but curiously enough they are said to have no 
family divisions, gilat or orot like the Masai. 

An ancient elder named Parmashu is their recognized chief; 
they however have no medicine man or laibon but consult a 
Mweru laibon named Lakaibe. 

They kill any animal but do not eat any that are carnivorous. 

The information regarding these people is unfortunately 
somewhat meagre owing to lack of opportunity to visit their 
country and to the writer having met very few members of the 

Plate XXII 

(43) A-Kikuyu chief — Muturi wa Theka. 

(44) A-Kikuyu cliief— Muturi wa Theka. 



tribe. A fair vocabulary of their language has however been 
obtained and is here given, and it is hoped that it may furnish 
philologists with some clue as to their origin. The vocabulary 
has been checked and rechecked and the roots can be relied on, 
but great difficulty was experienced with the verbs, owing, in the 
first place, to the fact that the interpretation had to pass through 
the medium of the Masai and Swahili language and, secondly, 
owing to the inability of the subject to understand the difference 
between first, second and third person in the conjugation of a 
verb. However as he could not be induced to make a long stay 
in the region of civilization the information must be leniently 
judged ^ 

Mogogodo Vocabulary, 




Tukutuk (tukul = all, in Nandi) 






















Munyei (M.^) 





Before (place) 











Tein or Tihin 



^ For type of Mogogodo see Plate XXVII. 
2 (M.) = Masai root, (N.) Nandi root. 







Brass wire 








Child, female 

Child, male 






Colobus (monkey) 

Cooking pot 

Country, land 

Cover or lid 























Karanda (M.) 







Karasha (M.) 



Koroi (M.) 




Segherai (M.) 

Wuat or Wat 

Keinyang (M.), Nyang = crocodile 

in Tho-Luo 

Tirri ^^ 

Kechoposhon ? ^^HI 


Ila II 



Plate XXIII 

(45) A-Kikuyu chief — Kiondo wa Kitei. 

(46) A-Kikuyu chief — Kiondo wa Kitei. 
Note ! Sheep's- wool woven on his natural hair. 



Father, own 


Father, else's 

Payisi (N. = Apoiyo) 


Hobi or Hubi 






Singiri (M.) 








Sousou (small woods) 

Forest (big) 





Ngoilet (N. = Ingokiet) 



Generation or age 

Erei (Poror of Masai) 


Shanga Dogirri 

Girl, young 












Guinea fowl 

Keresure (M.) 






(not known) 






Mitei (N. = Metit) 



Hide (of ox) 


Hide (any skin) 


Hide (of wild animal) 









Barta (M.) 






Hai m 


Kotei fl 


Irei(N. = oriit) fl 


Sengei (M.) ■ 




Sheou ^M 


Malo (M.) ^ 


Ando (variant of Antu = water) 






Sobare ^| 


Sungai ^H 

Long since 

Etirak ™ 


lei or Sei (Ke-Sei = that is a m; 

N. = chii 

Moran (warrior) 

Oromishi ^_ 

Moru (elder) 

Roshei ^M 


lyou ^1 


Mother, own 

lyo (N. = eiyo) j 

Mother, else's 

Itigarai ^ 

Mtama (millet) 

Not known ^ 

Mahindi (maize) 

Not known ^ 


Atta 9 


Sgilli fl 


Ishi H 


Teto5 '^M 


Tochono jH 


Ogo ^ 



Not yet 

Erotit ^ 


Auteti ifl 


Nugha 9 




Kimasarok (M.) fl 


Bor M 

Paa, Madoqua Gazelle 

Embaba S 

Palm of hand 

Dab (M.) ■ 








Poison for arrows 

Morijoi (name of tree used) M 

Akokanthera Schimperi 

Present (noun) 




Quiver (noun) 



















Keshoboshon (Sobat of Masai) 





Serval cat 

Not known 







Sim6 (sword) 








Snuff box 











Lorigha (M.) 



Supreme being 

Sokho or Engai (M.) 


Kidongoi (M.) 



That is 





They have come from 















Wild fig tree 




Woman, old 

Woman, young 




Zebra, Burchell's 

Zebra, Grevy's 







Six to Nine 



afar Kesi Gedi 

Keded, tree = ketit in Nandi 

Choi mokot 

Siangiki (M.) 

01-Kanka kepuni (grey) 







Not obtainable 

Kapun or Apun 


Plate XXIV 

(47) A-Kikuyu chief — Karuri. Karuri is the son of a Dorobo father 
by a Kikuyu mother. 

(48) Karuri. 



One bird 
Two birds 
One elephant 
Two elephants 
One knife 
Two knives 
Three knives 
One house 
Two houses 
One hand 
Two hands 
One lion 
Two lions 
Three lions 
One axe 
Two axes 
One spear 
Two spears 
Three spears 
One man 
Two men 
Three men 
One woman 
Two women 
Three women 
To awake 











Agreement of Nouns and Numerals. 

Legei wehet 

Legei kechei 

Sogomei kibwehet 

Sogomedi kechei 

Sheou wehetu 

Sheou kechei 

Sheou khahaat 

Hai wehet 

Hai kechei 

Tegei wehetu 

Tegei cheion or jejon 

Sungai kiwehet 

Sungai muchei or kechei 

Sungai khahaat 

Egoi kiwehet 

Egoi kechei 

Tor kiwehet 

Tor kechei 

Tor khahaat 

Kib wehet or kesei wehet 

Ke chei 

Kha haat or kesei khahaat 

Damatut wehetu 

Damatuti chei 

Damatuti khahaat 


Tohodi, Ntoka 


Ilehei (cause to come) 





Nashanet, Shaanu 





To love 

Mala l^l 


Ndiksa ^H 


Kender ^H 


Naecho ^H 


Kahata ^^^H 

I eat 

Ndeta H 

He eats 

Egeto (giheji) = (food) ^H 

We eat 

Egitai ^^^H 

They eat 

Egeto (gihechen) ^H 

Give me 

lisee ^H 

I want 

Ngededi or Ngjeja ^H 

He wants 

J^J^ ■ 

He wants a thing 

Kwi kijeji ^M 

We want 

Jejon ^H 

They want 

Kejehen ]^M 

I know 

Ngeheno ^H 

Thou knowest 

Geheno ^H 

He knows 

Cheheno or chegekeheno ^H 

We know 

Kegeheni or Gaiheno *"*"' 

They know 

Chegehen or kisei chekehen (those 


I do not know 

Ishahanu ^, 

I do not go 

Niakhani i^H 

I do not want 

Ngjeji ^ 

I do not see 

I la teetei or Ngnen a waakan ^ 

I can't see anything 

Ngnen toiyi J^ 

I see 

Ndoyia or Na waakhi ^M 

I go to water 

Antu Khalkhani ^H 

Where are you going 

Shilakhandi ^H 

Where is (Kibaradi) 

Engado (Kibaradi), Kibaradi is a 

proper name 

I say 


(Kibaradi says) 

(Kibaradi) okho, Kibaradi is a 

proper name 

He says 

Okhoi or okho 

We say 

Nini okan or ogoo okan 

They say 

Okoyan or yesaga okan 



Conversation between two 

I am good 

Thou art good 

He is good 

We are good 

They are good 

Ye are good 

He is bad 

I sleep 

He sleeps 

We sleep 

They sleep 

I sit 

He sits 

We sit 

They sit 

I am coming 

He is coming 

We are coming 

They are coming 

I drink (water) 

Take hold of 

people Maokhoten okoo 
Kongo shoboshon 
Kagu shoboshon 
Ke shoboshon 
Kege shoboshonadi 
Ke shoboshonadi 
Kabu shoboshonadi 
Ke tepiter 
Lehei or keselehei 
Nukha (antu) 



MWERU is the name of a very large tribe living on the North 
and N.E. slopes of Kenia and on the Jombeni range which runs 
in a N.E. direction towards the Euaso Nyiro. 

They are not pure A-Kikuyu but appear to have a strong 
strain of Masai blood, probably due to numbers of Laikipiak 
having settled among them and intermarried with them. 

Their geographical divisions are as follows : — j^Jl 



(i) Janjai 


(2) Oringo 


(3) Kunati 


(4) Mbuya 


(5) Akithii 


(6) Athwana 


(7) Muthara 


(8) Karama 


(9) lembe 


(10) Muchi Muguru ... 


(11) Kithio 


(12) Amwa 


(13) Mnithu 


(14) Nyangini 

(15) Tera 

(16) Ntagira 

(17) Karuanjoi 

(18) Kithironi 

(19) Rukho 

(20) lokhi 

(21) Amenfnendi 

(22) Thaicho 



Plate XXV 

(49) A-Kikuyu women pounding sugar-cane to make beer. 

(50) A-Kikuyu women in village. 



The Mweru also have gilat like the Masai, these divisions 
have a totemistic basis and are called " Mwiria " ; the members 
of each Mwiria have a distinctive badge or pattern which they 
mark on their honey pots and they have other marks for their 
cattle ; the cattle are marked on the ears and on the flank. 

The following are the principal Mwiria : — 


Totem or Netiri 





The twine with which their " vyondo" 


or baskets are made 



White cattle 



Speckled or mottled cattle 



Red cattle 



A plant called Mukui which has an 
edible root 






{Antu in Mweru language 
means people) 






Antwa mwakia 

(means the greedy people) 

Neotragus (dik dik) 



Black cattle 



{Anda is Mweru word for 





{^Matu — tdxs in Mweru) 

(Swa. = Kiringende) 

In cases where the totem is edible (for instance Ntuni have 
red cattle as totem) a youth cannot eat the totem until he is 
adult and has been initiated ; his father makes medicine and 
goes through certain ceremonial in which the youth has to take 
part, the young man can then eat the totem without ill effects. 
The totem is called Netiri or the " forbidden thing." 

Exogamy prevails among the Mweru, this is based on the 
totemistic clan, for example an Amatu man cannot marry an 
Amatu woman but must marry into another clan. 

The Ntowaita is the dominant Mwiria or clan ; they have an 
interesting piece of folk-lore to explain the origin of the name 
of the clan ; the story runs as follows : — 

A long time ago this clan lived in a country far away from 


their present habitat, on the banks of a big river and they were 
called Njiru in those days. Suddenly an invading army swept 
down and occupied their country, they could not escape being 
penned in between the enemy and the river, and so the tribes- 
men approached the leader of the raiders and begged for peace. 
This chief promised peace upon the fulfilment of three things. 
The first was a demand for countless fleas, the people did not 
know how to fulfil this so went to consult their laibon or 
medicine man. The laibon said, " Go and cut off tails of cattle, 
camels, horses and donkeys and bring them to me," they did 
so, and he then said, " Chop up the hair into very fine pieces," 
they did so; and then the laibon made medicine and the frag- 
ments of hair jumped about like fleas and the enemy was 
satisfied and imposed the second test, which was to procure a 
pair of hide sandals with hair on both sides ; to solve this 
problem the laibon ordered them to cut off the ears of a donkey 
and make them into sandals, the enemy accepted this. The 
third test was to make a stick of iron reaching from earth to 
the skies ; this seemed impossible so they again consulted the 
laibon and he said, " Bring a man to me to whom I can do 
whatever I wish and I will make medicine," they did so, and 
the laibon cut open his body from his chest to his abdomen and 
examined his internal organs; and he then told them to bring 
a small ewe lamb, some ass's milk, and some human milk, and 
he took all these things to the river which was cutting off their 
only route of flight ; the milk was poured into the river, the 
lamb was tied up on the bank and the laibon prayed to God to 
give his people a way of escape from the enemy, and God heard 
the petition, divided the waters of the river and the tribe crossed 
over on dry land. The laibon then prayed that the flow of the 
river might be restored behind his people and it was so, he then 
sewed up the body of the man whom he had cut open and he 
quickly recovered and went along with the tribe. They then 
journeyed on unmolested, and came to Mweru and settled there. 
This is the origin of their family name NtOWAITA, ku-ita in 
Mweru tongue means "to cut." The Ntowaita are mostly located 
among the Atwana sub-tribe. 

This legend cannot fail to remind one of the flight of the 



Israelites from Egypt and one wonders if it may not have 
filtered down from the Semitic races of Bworana. 

Notes on the Sambur, Laikipiak^ Elgeyo^ Uasingishu tribes, etc. 

The Sambur strenuously assert that they and the Laikipiak 
were never one tribe ; at the present day however there are 
many Laikipiak living among the Sambur, these are mostly 
refugees from the El Purko raid on the Laikipiak about 1889. 

The following are the principal geographical divisions of 
the Sambur : — 




Pusigishu (grey cattle) 


Lai taram 



01 Emantili 


L'orogishu or L'orogichu 

(corruption of Masai for "black cattle") 



El Doiju 

El Mwesi 









Gilat or orot of the Sambur. 

(i) Sitat. The origin of this gilat is said to be as follows : — 

In the early days of the tribe there lived a very powerful 

chieftainess named Sitat ; a woman had a female child which 

she presented to Sitat, and Sitat ruled that the progeny of this 

child should found a clan called after her name. 

The Sitat gilat is the dominant one among the Sambur. 

(2) 01 Lesilali. Supposed origin — Sitat then adopted a boy, 
the son of an elder named Ol Lesilali, and the progeny of this 
boy founded the clan. 

(3) Maletis. The members of this clan are said to be the 
descendants of a boy who was also adopted by Sitat and who 
was the brother of Ol Lesilali. 

The Sambur appear to have no totems attached to the gilat 
or family clans. 


A Laikipiak named 01 Segeteti is the laibon or medicine 
man of the Sambur. 

The following are the principal geographical divisions of the 
Laikipiak : — 

(i) Memerun. 

(2) Momony5t. 

(3) II Morijo. 

(4) El Aibaratari. 

(5) Muzara. 

(6) Lanat, chief Lengila. 

There are others, but owing to the break up of the tribe a 
complete list is difficult to obtain. 

The principal gilat or orot of the Laikipiak are as follows : — 
(i) Bartaolin. 

(2) Sioma. 

(3) Kisengeni. 

The writer has been unable to find that any totems are attached 
to these divisions but further research is necessary on this point 

The home of the Lanat is on the Kirimar plain on the west 
side of Lorian swamp (or Irimba as the Lanat call it) and on 
south bank of the Euaso Nyiro, where the remains of their 
villages can be seen to this day. They were driven out and 
dispersed some 20 — 30 years ago by the Sitaa or El Duju a 
branch of the Bworana people ; they came mounted on camels, 
and a few of the raiders wore cloth and had guns. 

Most of the survivors of the Lanat now live among the 
Sambur, they are clever hunters. 

A curious little known tribe called El Keriet by the Sambur 
is said to live in the semi-desert country north of Lorian, they 
are great elephant hunters, their only domestic animal is the 
dog and dog-flesh is a more or less staple article of diet. 

They formerly lived around Lorian but were driven into 
a range of hills called Mariti some distance to the north of 
the swamp. 

Their speech is said to be allied to that of Bworana, and 
their hair straight like that of a Somali, and their complexion 
is reddish. Possibly they may turn out to be an off-shoot of 
the Somali Midgans? 

Plate XXVI 

*' 1 

£. ' 

(51) A-Kikuyu bee-hive marked with badge of the Anjiru clan. 

(52) I. Prehistoric stone bowl or mortar discovered near Naivasha at 
the foot of a cliff 4 ft. below the surface. 

2. Perforated stone dug up at Mwatate, Taita Mountains : either the 
head of a stone club or the weight for a digging stick. 



Gilat or Oret of Elgeyo tribe. {Oret in the Nandi group 
of languages means a road.) 

Oret (Korgat of the Nandi and Lumbwa) 

Totem (mome — not eaten) 



Tuyoi ... 
Teriki ... 

( Toret) bush pig 

Tula ... 
Kimoi ... 

{Tisiet) monkey {Cercopithecus) 



Soti (in Maragwet) . 


Gilat or Oret of the Kamasia tribe. 







Kip-Kwikwi ... 

Kip-Sibon or Kisibon 







Baboon {moset) 


In both these tribes descent follows the paternal line, e.g. a 
chief named Kipchillum belonging to the Sojon gilat told the 
writer that his father belonged to the Sojon and his mother was 
Segeja, he stated that he could not marry a Segeja woman 
that being the gilat of his mother and of course like most 
other tribes in East Africa he viewed with great horror the 
idea of marrying a Sojon woman all of which he classed as 

This is believed to be the first recorded instance of any 
trace of definite totems being acknowledged by a branch of 
the Masai. 




NOTES ON MWERU ^^^^^^^| 
Gilat of Uasingishu tribe, ^^^H 



Principal representatives 

El Mogishu ... 

El Masarunye 

El Siria 

Emogishui, Rift valley 
starling {Lamprocolius 
chalybeus^ Ehr.) 


Enjoshowi (Indicator bird) 

Ol Ainamodo) Ol-aibon, 
OlMurumbi ""^ '^^^'• 
01 Emberei ^^"^ "^^^ 

Mlarininyi (laigwanan of 
moruak, Eldama Ravine) 

01 Nangoris | 

01 Enolul(Z«/z/«^)Sayen 

It is curious to note that in Nandi the laibons or medicine 
men belong to a clan whose totem is the lion and it was rather 
expected that among the Uasingishu it would possibly turn out 
that their laibons had the same totem, for when divining events 
with their sacred pebbles, the stones are usually poured out of 
a gourd on to a lion's skin and the neck of the gourd in which 
the pebbles are kept is decorated with strips of skin from a lion's 
mane ; this predisposed one to think that the lion had some 
special significance to them, but the principal laibon stated that 
a lion's skin was used because their medicine was very strong, 
i.e. it was symbolical of the strength of their magic. 

Names of months among the Elgeyo and Kamasia : 



) Iwat kut 

time of big rains 


) Maumut 



1 Wagi or waki 


Engnei or Ngnei 


) Robtui 


) Puret 

(this month com 


) Kipsundei 


) Kipsundei 


) Mulgul 

dry weather 


) Mulgul 


I Ngnotiotu 


) Kiptamo 


Kiptamo is the auspicious month for the circumcision of 
youths. The two months called Mulgul are also good months 
for this ceremony. 

Girls can be operated on in any month, there is no particular 

Among the up-country tribes in British East Africa the 
smallest sub-division of the year is usually the month and 
some tribes even have no names for the months. Among the 
Randili (usually spelt Rendile) and Burkeneji^ who inhabit the 
steppes east of Lake Rudolph we however find distinctive 
names for the days of the week. 

There is of course little doubt that this is a legacy from their 
Semitic ancestors. 

Randili names for the days of the week. 

1st day of week Hahat 

2nd „ Hura hakhan (hura in Randili means sun) 

3rd „ Sere (sere = day) 

4th „ Kumat 

5th „ Ser hakhan 

6th „ Sere adi (the day of the goats and sheep) 

7th „ Sere gal (day of the camel) 

On the day Ser hakhan they may not travel or move their 
grazing ground, they also may not make cattle medicine on that 

It will be noted that if we call the first day of the week 
Monday, Ser hakhan will coincide with Friday (vide European 
superstition against travel on Friday) ; the persons examined 
however could not tell with which day of our week Ser hakhan 

Hura hakhan appears to be their Sabbath, no work may 
be done, animals can however be slaughtered for food. Hahat 
appears to be a fast day, animals cannot be slaughtered for food 
and the people pray to God. 

* This name is probably really Naibor Keneji (white sheep), they are more allied 
to the Sambur than the Randili. 




The Lumbwa and Sotik are divided genealogically into clans 
and geographically into districts as follows : — 




Kwaigei — nearly all the Sotik belong to this clan 






Korgat or Clan 

Mome or Totem 





Matabori ... 









Crested crane 

Lumbwa : 




Cheptirigichet ... 


Cheptalamya . . . 




Cercopithecus albigularis 

Marabou stork 





The following notes were obtained too late for incorporation 
in the body of this work. 

( I ) Counting people and cattle. 

There does not appear to be any superstition against counting 
stock ; if a man has a large herd he does not know the number, 
but he or his wives when milking would quickly notice if a beast 
with certain markings was not present. A man however knows 
the number of his children but is averse to telling anyone outside 
his family. There is a tradition that a man named Munda wa 
Ngola who lived in the Ibeti Hills had many sons and daughters, 
and boasted of the size of his family saying that he and his sons 
could resist any attack from the Masai ; one night however the 
Masai surprised him and killed him and his people, and the 
country side considered that this was a judgement on him. 

There is also an idea that boastfulness will induce jealousy 
on the part of other less favoured, and cause some envious 
person to use magic on the boaster's family and thus the family 
will die out. 

Among the Kitui section certain persons are found who are 
believed to be congenitally unclean and bearers of ill luck ; if 
such a person counted people or live-stock he would by so doing 
bestow ill-fortune, and the people or stock would probably sicken 
and die. They state they have no reason for suspecting a person 
beforehand, but if any untoward sickness occurs they are often 
apt to pitch upon someone as a scapegoat. The accused is called 
up and requested to spit upon the sick person or beast; it is 
believed that this will exorcise the curse. 

II— 3 


(2) Prohibitions observed while cattle are grazing. 

In Prof. Frazer's luminous paper on the Folk- Lore of th< 
Old Testament in the Essays a reference is made to A-Kamba 
customs recorded by an early German traveller named Hilde- 
brandt, Ethnographische der Wakamba, etc, Zeitschrift fUr 
Ethnologic 1878, p. 401, with reference to a recognized custom 
among the A-Kamba to the effect that intercourse among the 
sexes must not take place while the cattle are out at grass : the 
writer has not had the opportunity of reading Hildebrandt's 
paper, but enquiries were made on this interesting point. It 
was found that this custom still exists and is still strictly 
followed, but it refers only to the people left in the kraal and 
does not apply to the herdsmen; if the people in the kraal 
infringed this prohibition it is believed that the cattle would 
die off, and also that the children would sicken : no explanation 
was offered as to why the herdsmen were exempt. 


(3) Aiimu beliefs. 

As has been previously demonstrated the part played by 
ancestral spirits in the life of the A-Kamba is intensely real, and 
further research has brought to light several points worthy of 
notice. As was before described, at the foot of each Mtimbo, a 
sacred fig tree which is supposed to be inhabited by the spirits, 
there is a small clearing, a shrine in fact, where offerings of food 
are placed ; this food is known to be eaten by birds, rats, etc., but 
it is believed that the Aiimu are pleased at this, but a human 
being dare not eat of any such offering as it is believed that he 
and his live-stock would die ; in some parts of the country it is 
laid down that he must not enter the sacred grove wantonly out 
of mere curiosity, neither must he go thither alone but always 
in company with one or more. If he was to go there alone 
he would be fined a bull or five goats by the elders. In Ibeti 
district it is stated that should a man unwittingly enter a sacred 
grove he would hear voices ordering him to retire from the 
vicinity, stones would also fall all round him but would not 
hit him ; he would then realize that he had offended the A ihmi 
and would return to his village, and standing outside would 
announce that he had been chased away by the spirits and ask 


for Moyo. A goat would be killed and the contents of the 
stomach smeared over his face, hands and feet, and only after 
this lustration could he rejoin his fellows. 

Now this mysterious stone throwing is a very curious belief; 
it is said to occur all over India to intruders who trespass in the 
vicinity of sacred groves, and a curious case was recently related 
to the author of a European in this country who built a house 
under a sacred tree and was constantly annoyed at night by 
mysterious stone throwing on the roof — but this enquiry would 
lead us into the occult world, and it is not desired to lure the 
reader into the region of pyschic phenomena. 

At times it is said that the sacred place glows like fire — 
Mwaki it is called. Should a man passing the place approach 
it to investigate, the fire however disappears. Children are told 
by their parents never to mention having seen this fire or if they 
do they will die. 

If Mumbo trees are not found in any part of the country the 
Aiimu haunt a prominent rock or rocky hill; there is a rocky 
hill in the bush West of Kibwezi said to be haunted by Aiimu ; it 
is surrounded by the densest bush traversed by tracks difificult to 
find ; it is said that if a man penetrates this belt of bush and 
reaches the hill he will hear voices all round him and the usual 
noises of a kraal — lowing of cattle, etc. ; when he turns to leave 
he will not be able to find the track by which he has entered, and 
will wander round and round till he dies, and his spirit will then 
join the colony of Aiimu on the hill. 

There is a sacred rock called " Kabubooni " in Kitui district, 
where people go regularly to pray to the Aiimu for increase of 
worldly goods such as cattle, goats, etc. A libation of mead is 
poured out at the foot of the rock ; a male goat is then held up 
on its hind legs and facing the hill, its neck is pierced and the 
blood allowed to run into the ground and mix with the mead. 
When the mead is spilt the elders pray, saying, " We pray to you, 
O God, to bring us rain and keep our flocks and herds from 
harm." The goat is then eaten by the elders at a little distance 
from the shrine, women and young men are not allowed at this 

There is another rock called " Nzambani," and the Aiimu 


haunting it are believed to be able to produce rain, so it is 
a popular shrine on that account. For rain and good crops 
the offering consists of samples of various grains, honey and 
milk; a male goat is then killed some little distance away. A piece 
of the meat is cut up into tiny fragments, and these are covered 
up with a small piece of the skin of the sacrificial goat. All 
these are laid out at the foot of the rock in a line with the 
morning sun, but it is said a little South of East. The re- 
mainder of the flesh of the goat is eaten by the elders. 

The food is carried to the sacred place by married women^ 
but they go away before the ceremony, leaving only the elders. 

They pray as follows :— " O God, we bring you food, we pray 
for rain, we pray for food." 

(4) The Kithito Oath ceremony. 

On pp. 47 and 78 reference is made to this form of oath. It 
is found that when this is administered for judicial reasons the 
ancient sacred specimens described on p. 47 are not generally 
used, but one is made for the purpose. It is usually a bundle of 
articles about 8 inches in length and 2 inches in diameter and 
composed of the following constituents : — part of a Chondoo or 
grain bag, a twig from the Mimavoi and Mtikulwa trees, seven 
twigs of the Mgugnma tree, samples of all kinds of cereals grown, 
two goat horns, some cow dung and butter mixed up together ; 
the top is sealed with hyaena dung and two spots of red earth 
are daubed on ; the bundle is bound up by bark from a Musizili 
tree and the article is suspended by a loop of the same. The 
Kithito is placed on three small stones between two twigs of the 
Mobou tree with the side on which the hyaena dung is smeared 
facing East. The person taking the oath stands on two stones 
about 3 feet away and swears as to his innocence or to the bona- 
fides of his claim as the case may be ; when he swears he taps the 
Kithito with a twig of the Mobou tree. The idea of placing the 
Kithito on stones, and also the fact that the accused stands on 
stones, is probably to insulate the Kithito from the soil and 
prevent its magic defiling the soil, for after the ceremony is over 
it must not be left near a village or plantation, for in the former 


case harm will befall the village and in the latter rain will not 
fall on the plantation ; it is therefore taken away to a rocky 
place called a Ngunga and placed in a cleft in the rocks. 
When the bearer of the Kithito approaches this place he turns 
his back on it, and walks backwards till he reaches it and is able 
to deposit the magic bundle. He leaves it there and returns 
home telling no one where he has hidden it, but before he can 
eat he must cleanse himself of the influence of the Kithito by 
smearing sheep's fat over his hands, face and legs. Not till the 
third day after constructing the Kithito may he cohabit with his 
wife. If a man carries a Kithito about during the rains it will 
cause the rains to cease. 

There is another minor form of Kithito which is used in the 
case of a man who dies of a virulent disease. A neighbour will 
take some pebbles from a Ngunga and wrap them in the fibre 
from a Mubia tree ; this is placed on the dead man's tongue 
and then taken away and deposited in a hollow in a Ngunga. 
All risk of others incurring the disease of the deceased is then 
supposed to cease, the magic of the Kithito having absorbed the 
virus. It is probably believed that the Aiimu which haunt the 
Ngunga rocks guard the magic Kithito. Although not speci- 
fically stated, there is reason to believe that disease is often 
believed to be due to the influence of malignant Aiimu \ in 
Kitui, if the cattle in a certain district are suffering from disease, 
the people of the surrounding districts will often erect an arch of 
sticks on the path at their frontier and suspend feathers from this 
erection ; this is believed to stop the disease from entering their 

(5) Tame snakes. 

On p. 94 it is stated that the A-Kamba do not keep tame 
snakes as the Wa-Nyamwezi and many other African tribes do. 
This is true of the greater part of the tribe, but in some remote 
parts of Mumoni it is said that tame snakes, probably pythons, 
are kept ; they are doctored by a medicine man, which treatment 
makes them domesticated, and they are fed daily with milk at the 
gate of the village. It is said that if the villagers are all away in 
the plantations and someone comes to steal, the snake will act as 



guardian of the gate and wind itself round the thief, holding 
there with his spoil until the villagers return. 

(6) Clans- Mwiriga or Mbai of Thaka or Tharaka tribe. 


Nthuku or totem 

N tonga 

Duiker {nthia) 


Baboon {Iktdi) 


Monkey {ntheo) 


Ard Vark {guma) 


Dik Dik {Kabii) 


Hartebeest {Ando) 


Elephant {nzoo) 


Wart hog (ngi) 


Reed buck {ndoya) 


Bush pig {ngtdwe) 


Elephant {nzoo) 


Rhino {ngimo) 


Buffalo {mbogo) 


Hyaena {inbiti) 

As among most other tribes, clan escogamy is the rule, an< 
the children are of their father's clan. 

Plate XXVII 

(53) Mogogodo tribe — chief Matungi. 

(54) Mogogodo tribe — Matungi. 


Abduction 80 

Abortion 58 

Adultery 79 

Agriculture 20 

Aiimu 86 et seq., beliefs see Appendix 

Animals, names of 1% 
Armlet, see Ornaments 
Arrow 43, different kinds of 43, method 

of making 43, poisoned 44, specimens 

of clan marks 46 
Arson 80 
Arts 29 
Assault 79 

Baskets 29 

Beliefs, legends connected with the 

Aiimu 86 
Bee-keeping 33 
Beer 31 
Birds 23 

Birth, customs at 60 
Bracelets, see Personal ornaments 
Brands 22 
Brewing 31 
Burial, customs of 66, of chiefs t6 

Cattle brands 24, 129 

Ceremony, peace 47, use of horn in 
peace 47, compensation arranged for 
before peace 48, at crossing a stream 

57, connected with the foundation of 
a village and the building of a hut 

58, on the occasion of marriage 63, 
after death 67, called Ukuu 97, called 
Thobu 1 01 

"Chesu" Mania 10 

Cicatrization 17 

Circumcision 68, Nzaikonini 68, initiative 

ceremonies 69 et seq.y Nzaikoneni 69, 

Musai riddle sticks 71, Mbabani 

ceremony 74 
Colonization of the highlands of B. E. 

Africa 130 
Counting 18, of people and cattle see 

Appendix (i) 
Cowardice, punishment of 79 

Crops 21 
Curses 105 

Dances 53 

Death 66, explanation of 85 

Debts 8f 

Deformities 10 

Dress 39 

Drums 32 

Ear-rings, see Personal ornaments 
Elgeyo tribe 159, names of months of 162 

Families, constitution of 13 

Fire, production of 29 

Food, etc. 15 

Folk-lore 107, story of origin of death 
107, hyaena story 109, how the animals 
got their marks 1 10, story of the tortoise 
114, cunning of the hare 115, Munei's 
prophecy 116 

Galla settlement 135 
Games 55 
Giriama country 2 

House building 30 

Industries 29 

Inheritance 82, 136, of live stock 138 

Insects 24 

Ithobu custom loi 

Kamba i, country, physical configura- 
tion 3, origin of tribe 2, population 2, 
clans of 4, physical characteristics 7, 
types of 7, physical powers 8, cranial 
measurements 9, physical measurements 
II, infectious mania 10, proportion of 
sexes 12 

Kikuyu tribe, history of 134, oath cere- 
mony 142 

Kingnoli custom 95 

Kinship, system of 50 

Kithito magic 47, oath ceremony see 
Appendix (4) 

Kitui district a, clans of 6 



Laikipiak tribe 159 
Land Tenure 82, 136 
Laws, Criminal 78, Civil 81 
Legends 86 

Lumbwa tribe, genealogical divisions 

Magic, Kamba 93, Kikuyu 139 

Man, origin of 51 

Markets 56 

Marriage customs 62 

Masai, social organization of 119, clan 
marks of 120, marriage laws of 121, 
names of clans 124, names of children 
126, shield patterns 127, cattle brands 
129, mimicry of habits of 132 

Meals 15 

Medicine man 93, 143, 162, method of 
dealing with poisonous snake bite 93, 
method of 94, gourd of 98, exhibition 
of the powers of 143 

Medicines, description of 99, Kamba 

Menstruation 65 
Metal work 29 

Mogogodo tribe 146, language of 147 
Mumoni district 2, clans of 5, people 7 
Musical Instruments 32 
Mweru tribe, geographical divisions of 

156, totems of 157, folk-lore of 157 
Myths 55 

Natural phenomena 54 
Necklets, see Ornaments 
Noka tribe i 
Numerals Kamba 19 

Oath ceremony 142 
Okiek tribe 135 
Omens 104 
Ordeals 81 
Ornaments 39 

Personal ornamentation 17 

Physical measurements 11 

Pipes 32 

Pointing 10 

Population of Ukamba 2 

Pottery 30 

Prohibitions 102, concerning mother-in- 
law 103, observed while cattle are 
grazing see Appendix (2) 

Punishment, tribal method of 80 

Randili tribe, names for days of week 

Religion 85 
Reptiles 23 
Riddles 54 
Rings see Ornaments 

Sacrifice 57 

Salutations 52 

Sambur tribe, divisions of 159 

Sexes, proportion of 12 

Skull, measurements of 9 

Slavery 48 

Smiths 51 

Snuff-bottles 40 

Social grades 49 

Songs 53 

Sotik tribe, genealogical divisions 163 

Spiritual beliefs 85 

Stick, use in circumcision ceremony 71 

Stools 34, woods used for making 34, 
manufacture of 34, designs 34, mode 
of carrying 35, names of patterns 35, 
origin of ornament 35, peculiar to 
women 38 

Teeth, sharpening of 18 J| 

Thaka or Tharaka tribe 2, clans of 

Appendix (6) 
Time, measurement of 52 
Totems 4, 5, 6, 157, 161, 162, 164, 

Appendix (6) 
Traps 30 
Turkana tribe 7 

Uasingishu tribe 159 

Ukamba country, boundaries of r 

Ukuu ceremony 97 

Ulu district 2 

War 43, method of 44, ceremonies c 

nected with 45 
Weapons 43 
Whistles 32 




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